Every night, a dog, a cat and a pig sit together around the television in the living room.
For Bacon the pig and Hemi the cat, DOGTV is as entertaining as any other channel that their owners watch. But for Houdini the Yorkshire Terrier, watching the network is his favorite time of day.
The sound of chirping birds, the wind, waves on the water, bright colors — and the sight of fellow dogs on the screen — keep him calm when his human parents are at work and help him fall asleep at night.
"DOGTV is like an instant babysitter," said Houdini's owner, June Thompson, 47, secretary at Clayton County Police Department in Georgia. Watching the channel has become a daily bedtime routine for the family: the three animals, Thompson and her husband, Jim.
Thompson said she couldn't sleep one night so she was surfing TV channels and came across something "out-of-this-world amazing" — DOGTV, a channel made specifically for pooches.
The network was launched on DIRECTV in 2013. As of Thursday, it's available on Xfinity by Comcast as video on demand, meaning people — and canines — can watch whenever they want.
The goal of DOGTV is to combat boredom, stress, separation anxiety and hyperactivity in dogs. The channel's visual and auditory content is scientifically designed with the world's leading pet experts and is based on more than 60 studies on dog behavior, according to Gilad Neumann, CEO of DOGTV.
The channel — both entertaining and educational — has three main programs: relaxation, which reduces stress and anxiety for dogs when they're left alone; stimulation, which prevents dogs from sleeping too much and keeps them active; and exposure, which gradually exposes dogs on screen to challenging situations such as door bells, vacuum cleaners, children and other dogs, Neumann said.
DOGTV is also working with dog shelters around the country to help orphaned dogs become more adoptable. “When people see peaceful dogs, they’re more likely to adopt than a barking, agitated dog,” Neumann said.
People often ask Neumann why he and his team created something for dogs but not cats. He answers that there are more dog owners than cat owners in the U.S. In 2017, 42% of U.S. households that own a pet have dogs, while cat owners make up 33%, according to the latest American Pet Products Association's National Pet Owners Survey.
But more important than the number, Neumann said, is the fact that dogs need a calming influence more than cats. "Cats are not as social as dogs; they’re not upset when they are left alone. They actually like it when they're left alone. But dogs are very attached to their families, and they feel very sad and lonely, " Neumann said.
DOGTV also creates music for dogs. "Dogs like soft, melodic music," according to Nicholas Dodman, chief scientist of DOGTV. The piano seems to be dogs' favorite instrument. Other instruments that suit dogs' ears are the cello and harp, he said.
Dogs are colorblind, according to Neumann and Dodman; they see blue and yellow but not green and red. In the video production process, DOGTV's editors put emphasis on certain colors in real-life images so dogs can better see what's on the screen.
"When humans look at the channel, the colors can be a little off. The sky can be pinkish, the ground can be yellowish, because we add colors. But for dogs, it makes a huge difference because they can finally see a lot more," Neumann said.