By John Salak –
Sure, just like a lot of people, dogs love to chill, which can mean curling up on a couch or chair and just vegging out. Apparently, also just like people, a number of pooches like to watch TV—all of which begs the obvious question: What do dogs like to watch?
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine discovered our furry friends like to check out other dogs and animals when they’re surfacing channels. And who’s to argue with these Madison vets. The university’s mascot after all is a badger, which is like a dog only meaner.
To be clear, these Wisconsin researchers weren’t interested in getting a leg up on the developing pooch shows to boost Nielsen ratings. Instead, they launched their work to get a better handle on how interacting with video content may help develop more sensitive ways to assess canine vision –something that has been sorely lacking in veterinary medicine.
“The method we currently use to assess vision in dogs is a very low bar. In humans, it would be equivalent to saying yes or no if a person was blind,” said Freya Mowat, a veterinary ophthalmologist and professor at Madison. “We need more sensitive ways to assess vision in dogs, using a dog eye chart equivalent. We speculate that videos have the potential for sustaining a dog’s attention long enough to assess visual function, but we didn’t know what type of content is most engaging and appealing to dogs.”
Along the way, they discovered that content featuring other dogs was the most popular. Better yet, they noted that videos don’t have to be high-brow documentaries on rare breeds or unique habits. Scooby Doo, Beethoven or even Rin Tin Tin might do just as nicely.
The team discovered these viewing appetites via a global web-based questionnaire for dog owners that also asked about a dog’s age, breed and where they live.
Interestingly enough, the team found that lots of dogs are anything but couch potatoes when it comes to watching videos. Dog owners, in fact, commonly described their pets’ behavior as active during video sessions, which included their pets running, jumping, tracking action on the screen and vocalizing.
Other takeaways included a consensus that age and vision were related to how much a dog interacted with a screen; sporting and herding dog breeds are the biggest fans of video; and content featuring dogs was the most popular.
Sadly, while dogs may be man’s best friend, pooches were not particularly interested in watching videos involving people. Cartoons, however, were engaging for more than 10 percent of the dogs involved.
Mowat plans to build on the results to help develop and optimize video-based methods that can assess changes in visual attention as dogs age to help them age gracefully.
“We know that poor vision negatively impacts the quality of life in older people, but the effect of aging and vision changes in dogs is largely unknown because we can’t accurately assess it,” she explained. “Like people, dogs are living longer and we want to make sure we support a healthier life for them as well.”
The Wisconsin team isn’t the first group to tap into the concept of developing videos for pooches. Several companies, including DogTV.com, already offer content design to keep pooches engaged when their owners are away.
Whether these videos are good for pooches in terms of entertainment value and mental stimulation, however, is up for debate reports Rover.com, a dog-centric site.
These videos, nonetheless, are more accessible than ever, the site noted.
“There’s been a shift in technology,” Victoria Stillwell of Animal Planet told Rover.com. “And now because televisions are digital, dogs can see what is on the screen.”
The bottom line: anyone looking to veg out with their fur baby, a winning approach probably involves just chilling and setting up Lassie Come Home, One Hundred and One Dalmatians or Best In Show.