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Tails wag over new $5 cable network for dogs

A TV channel just for dogs: it may sound at first like a “Saturday Night Live” parody. But DogTV, a cable network expressly for man’s best friend, launched this week in San Diego.

“A lot of people laugh and think it’s funny or a gimmick,” said co-founder and chief content officer Ron Levi. “But then we explain the research and the science behind it. This is a great opportunity to makes dogs happier and their lives more pleasant while they are home alone during the day.”

Levi, himself a cat owner, came up with the idea after watching his pet’s dejected behavior as he got ready for work. He decided to use the television to entertain her while he was out and realized that the concept could apply to other pets as well.

After pitching the idea to the Jasmine Group, an Israeli media and production company, Levi refined it to apply to canines and spent the next three and a half years researching specialized content. Originally, programs included scenes and audio that humans thought would appeal to dogs, like barking, but test group dogs got irritated. The shows now avoid loud noises that frequently scare dogs, and keep well away from showing their traditional nemesis, cats.

DogTV has created nearly 800 programs for dogs, each around three to five minutes long to fit with a dogs’ limited attention span, and is constantly creating new content. The programs are designed to “relax, stimulate and expose” dogs to situations they come across in daily life, like car rides and romps around the park.

Other programs include animations of moving objects, nature scenes set to soothing music, and dogs sleeping or resting.

While San Diego dogs are the only lucky viewers at the moment, thanks to carriers Cox and Time Warner, DogTV is in talks with other broadcasters in the U.S. and hopes to expand into other markets in the coming months.

For the next few weeks the station will be offered free to all cable subscribers, but will eventually carry a $5 monthly fee.

“We can’t exactly sell ad space,” said Ron, laughing.

With 78.2 million dogs in the U.S., according to the American Pet Products Association, that’s a lot of potential subscribers.

DogTV has also teamed up with a professor of veterinary medicine and behavior at Tufts University to further research how dogs react and respond to DogTV.

But will it work? Well, it certainly can't hurt say the experts.

“DogTV seems a fun concept and it may help your pet make it through the day,” said dog behavior specialist Cesar Millan, star of the reality show “Dog Whisperer,” and publisher of Cesar's Way magazine, told TODAY.com. “But what they see is much less important to dogs than what they smell. Dogs are pack animals and to be separated from their pack leader is one of the most stressful things that can happen to them.

"Don’t make a big production of leaving because it will raise their excitement level. Make sure they have their favorite toys – particularly ones that engage them. And if your dog is calm, let him kick back and watch all the TV he likes.”

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