Figo is an unusual little dog: he enjoys watching television. Every evening, he settles down on his favourite cushion with Maria and her husband, gazing at the television, just like his owners.
Many dogs barely seem to notice television, as if they can’t even recognise what’s on the screen. Perhaps they’re similar to humans from tribes that live in remote areas who’ve never seen television before. At first they can just see light and dark shapes on the screen, then suddenly, they realise that they are moving pictures, and then there’s no going back. Figo has obviously made a similar leap of comprehension and he can see the pictures. He’s become a telly addict.
Like most humans, Figo has his own preferred type of television programme. It’s obvious that he’s bored by most of the evening schedule. Maria’s husband enjoys watching news and documentaries, but these do nothing at all for Figo. He slumps dejectedly on his cushion, looking around the room to see if there’s anything else interesting happening and even yawning from time to time.
It’s a different story when Figo’s own choice of programme comes on. Predictably, he loves anything at all that features animals. When animals appear on the screen, Figo wakes up. His ears prick, he jumps to his feet, and he’s suddenly full of energy. He stares avidly at the screen, taking in all the detail, his head tilted to one side as he strains to listen to the sound as carefully as possible. He often gets over-excited, rushing at the screen, barking. He even jumps up, pawing at the tv, as if trying to interact with the animals. Maria’s often said that she wouldn’t want to keep any valuable ornaments on top of the television; he’d knock them off. As it is, if Maria wasn’t there to control him, he’d be in danger of knocking the television over.
His favourite programme is Cesar Millan’s dog training series. Almost every frame shows dogs of various shapes and sizes, so he’s never bored. He watches it from the start to the finish, not missing a second. He loves other animal-based programmes too, including Richard Attenborough’s nature programmes. He likes watching birds and wildlife. He also enjoys TV3’s Animal A&E, although he’d prefer there to be fewer human-human conversations. His perfect programming is wall-to-wall animals.
Figo also enjoys adverts, and he’s learned to be even more skilled than the humans in the house at remembering the sequence of different adverts. He knows that when one advert is on, another one that features animals will be on next, and he’s ready for it, sitting beneath the tv with his ears pricked up. He’s not put off by computer-generated imagery (CGI), so he even enjoys watching animals that look obviously artificial to us. Some favourites include the dancing dogs in the adverts for booster vaccinations, the dogs wearing false teeth in the dental chew adverts, and the bulldog that advertises a UK insurance company.
Maria’s recently discovered that you can now buy DVDs that are specially designed for pets. These include the sights and sounds of large birds, squirrels, mice, cats and dogs. The DVDs are marketed as entertainment for pets when their owners are out (see www.petsittervideos.com), but it wouldn’t work for Figo. He’d get so excited when left alone with animals on the screen that he’d end up wrecking the place and perhaps even breaking the television.
Maria’s happy just to continue with the way things are already: she enjoys her evening programmes, her husband likes his documentaries, and little Figo takes his turn, enjoying watching his animals whenever he gets a chance.
- Many pets ignore television as if they can’t even see the pictures
- Other animals learn to enjoy watching television, just like people
- It’s now possible to buy DVDs, with content specially designed for pets
I once had a dog that would not only watch, but also ‘follow’ the course of a dog on the tv screen, or a tennisball thrown. He would go to the side where it was expected (by him) to come out of this tv-box thing, and when it did not come out he went searching behind the tv stand to see where it went. Not so surprising though, in ‘doggy’ thinking. But was WAS surprising: this dog also recognised fully abstract things. There was a commercial at that time where a felt marker would draw only one very simple basic outline of a dog on a completely white screen. No doggy sound or whatever to help him recognise it. Just one black line, symbolising ‘DOG’. It always surprised me that he could understand that this outline was representing DOG.