Television stations for bored dogs?
December 15, 2011 10:21 AM   Subscribe

I am dog-sitting three dogs today for several hours while I'm working from home. I can take them for a couple short walks, but otherwise, they're on their own. They seem kinda bored and I'm wondering if putting the t.v. on would help. Are there specific t.v. genres that seem to be of interest to your dogs?

I live in a townhouse and only have a patio for them, and it's raining. They're used to playing in their backyard with the several dogs their owner dog sits, or going to the dog park. That's not happening today. I guess it's not going to kill them to have a boring day for a change, but if there's anything I can do to alleviate their boredom (and their barking), that would be nice.
posted by ms_rasclark to Pets & Animals (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Some family friends swore by HGTV for the dogs. YMMV.
posted by SymphonyNumberNine at 10:25 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Our family dogs never noticed the TV, but my folks often kept the radio on for them. Usually CBC Radio or something similar (I guess NPR would be the American near-equivalent).
posted by smitt at 10:34 AM on December 15, 2011

Can you make a quick trip to the store and get them some of those chewies that last a long time? Chewing is a good boredom buster.

My dog doesn't like T.V.

Honestly though, if there are three of them then you don't need to worry. If they are really bored they'll start bugging each other to play.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:36 AM on December 15, 2011

Do you have any dog treat dispensers? Ones that they have to knock around to get treats to fall are so much fun - probably worth driving to a nearby pet store to pick.

A clicker? Running them through the commands they know in return for treats would be great. Just do a few commands every time you get up to go to the bathroom or get some water - we're taking ten minutes tops.
posted by canine epigram at 10:36 AM on December 15, 2011

Oh yeah, and ice cubes. Some dogs will happily chase and chew on ice. If you aren't adverse to puddles in your kitchen or wet spots on your carpet.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:36 AM on December 15, 2011

It's fine, dogs look bored by default and somehow extra sad when it's raining. Most dogs don't care about TV, and I don't think they can really see it except for light/dark patterns. Mine don't react to any TV noise except doorbells and saxophones (which sound like prey).

If I do put a TV on for background noise, I agree that HGTV is one of your best options because it's people talking nonstop. CNN will work in a pinch but they can have a lot of strange sounds. But really, they're dogs, they sleep like 16 hours a day. They'd prefer you stop torturing them and turn off the outsidewet, or at least let them out the door to where it's not raining, but they'll live.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:41 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

My grandparents always turn on Fox News for their dog when they crate him, but I don't recommend it. Cruel and unusual punishment, if you ask me. All those people yelling and the dog can't figure out why or leave the room.
posted by postel's law at 10:42 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

Sheep dog trials are specially televised for canine enjoyment. Humans may also enjoy.

I have also seen dogs like nature programs generally: those with close ups of small, vocal mammals are particularly popular.
posted by rongorongo at 10:54 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

We leave the TV on out of superstition, but we have no idea if it helps or not. We generally try to find something that involves lots of talking. Sirens, gunshots, or yelling are bad. Really, something like NPR might be your best shot.
posted by Gilbert at 11:06 AM on December 15, 2011

HGTV would be okay for the dogs, except for "House Hunters," because of the doorbell sound at the intro and returning from breaks. Drove my dog nuts.
posted by xingcat at 11:15 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Many dogs can't really see the screen in the same we we can - they can perceive the flicker and can experience image synchronization issues. Outside of that, they are often myopic and some dogs are unable to focus on an area in the way that humans can.

If you want to entertain your dogs, do something unexpected and fun every 45 minutes or so. I like to dance around and get them all jazzed up for 5-10 minutes every hour. They seem to sleep better and it gets me out of my chair, too.

I do this thing with our viszla where I dance and fart around while he is sitting, but if he stands up I stand perfectly still. You should see his tail wag like hyperactive overdriven windshield wiper on the floor.

Dogs are pretty curious and (usually) like novel things. Doing unexpected and fun things will entertain them pretty well.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:16 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think dogs may just be pretty variable on what they think about TV. We have two dogs, an Akita and a Newfoundland. The Akita doesn't seem to pay much attention to anything on the TV. Meanwhile, if the Newfoundland sees an animal on TV she gets wound up about it. Especially if it's a dog, but once even with a very stylized statue of a horse sitting on a desk in the background of some random show. She woofs and rears up on her hind legs to get a better look, which is a little alarmng as it puts her just about eye-to-eye with the TV which is up on the fireplace mantel (!).

Maybe watch some TV with them first to see what they think about it? And/or as Gilbert said, stick with something pretty mellow.
posted by madmethods at 11:22 AM on December 15, 2011

My dog (Rough Collie) likes the Hallmark Chanel especially when they show Martha Stewart in the morning.
posted by cda at 11:24 AM on December 15, 2011

My dog loses it completely when she hears a doorbell. But the House Hunters (HGTV) doorbell doesn't even phase her. We've often wondered why.

My wife usually leaves music on when she's away from the house for the dog. Chew toys are also good options.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:31 AM on December 15, 2011

Is it ok for them to be in the same room with you? My dogs would rather be in the room with me that not, even if I'm not doing anything exciting, or if exciting TV is happening in the other room. They seem calmer if they can see me. Then they usually fall asleep and snore quietly, as long as their human is nearby.

I can see how this might not work with dogs who aren't bonded to you, so YMMV.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:35 AM on December 15, 2011

Just came back from a walk - they were happy then. The little one is still barking. I guess the 7 hour video of the train trip in Europe isn't doing it for them. I'll try NPR - at least we all might get some enjoyment then.

I'm fairly new to Ask Metafilter and am always amazing at the quick and thoughtful replies. Between checking them and taking the dogs for a walk, I'm not getting ANY work done today.
posted by ms_rasclark at 11:35 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

I once had a dog - a shepard mix -- that would tear the house apart if we left without leaving the TV on. With the TV on, nothing got chewed except her chewy toys. I've also had dogs that ignore the TV like it's not even there. So YMMV when it comes to TVs and dogs.
posted by patheral at 11:38 AM on December 15, 2011

Linus (Welsh Terrier) always seems to pay attention when there's a dog on TV.

Barney (Welsh Terrier - Linus's predecessor) loved sports! If there was any kind of game on TV, he would sit and watch. I'd leave ESPN on when I had to leave him for short periods of time.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:51 AM on December 15, 2011

My lab was transfixed by Bringing up Baby.
posted by brujita at 11:59 AM on December 15, 2011

My dog and my cat both love TV. The cat actually likes it the most, and will watch intently and bat at interesting things on the screen (especially small furry prey animals.) The dog pays attention when there are other animals onscreen, mostly. She really liked Dog Whisperer when I had it on this weekend.

The other day I did a virtual lab on my laptop with a lifelike rat skittering around in its cage. She laid her head on the keyboard and watched it intently the entire time it was onscreen, and later when I had moved on to something else she kept periodically coming by and sniffing the screen. It was super cute and amusing.
posted by catatethebird at 12:04 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'll try NPR - at least we all might get some enjoyment then.

There's a fantastic New Yorker cartoon here somewhere.
posted by artificialard at 12:28 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am not sure the tv is really stimulating for dogs in a way that will relieve boredom. I agree with comments above that some time going through tricks will do the job. Or you can teach a new one. A good game for dogs if you are not very good with training is to show the dogs a treat and go in another room and hide it. Most dogs will pick this up really fast, if you say "find it" or something similar while they start looking they will know quickly to start looking about when you say "find it"
posted by JayNolan at 12:34 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

When we lived in an apartment and didn't want the dogs to obsess over background noises we would always put on Animal Planet.

Our new dog watches the screen sometimes. When she was a younger puppy she seemed obsessed with Carmela Soprano as she would always watch and tilt her head to the side when she was on screen.
posted by JayNolan at 12:38 PM on December 15, 2011

The only thing working is to have the little whiner sitting on my lap rubbing her constantly. I'm giving up and curling up on the couch with a dog and a book. This work day is a bust!
posted by ms_rasclark at 12:43 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

My dad always told me that dogs can't see the TV the same way we do, and my dogs don't seem to be interested in the TV other than the fact that long periods of having the TV on usually means they get to be on the couch.

Now my aunt's dog, on the other hand, runs to the TV and starts barking furiously whenever The Dog Whisperer is on. So I think the idea is that YMMV but it's not going to hurt to try it.

Oh and FWIW, while dogs do need significant exercise, they really do sleep/rest a lot during the day. Most dogs are very people-oriented so they are probably very happy just to have you around to hang out with.
posted by radioamy at 12:50 PM on December 15, 2011

Oh and since you said you're new to AskMe, I'll give you a pointer: post dog pix! :)
posted by radioamy at 12:51 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

My dog likes HGTV too... the endless stream of calm speaking voices does it I think.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:48 PM on December 15, 2011

Here's the method I swear by.

* Get some small, great-smelling dog treats. Lots of them. Each no more than the size of a quarter.
* Herd the dogs into a bedroom.
* Show the dogs the treats. Allow them to smell them.
* Leave them in the room and shut the door.
* Hide the treats throughout the house. Put them everywhere -- under furniture, behind things, on small tables and chairs they can reach. Everywhere. Hide the precious.
* Release the hounds.

The dogs will now spend the next several hours searching the house for the treats they can smell but not see.

Do this a few times, and then start to fake them out -- show them the treats and then DO NOT hide them.

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:27 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

We've almost made it through the day, and the long haired dachshund is finally settling in - just in time to go home. The two other dogs - the big ones, have been to my house many times and were settled in from the start. This is the first time in the past several hours that I don't have a dog either a) in my lap needing constant petting or b) whining and barking. She's tuckered out after somehow climbing onto the kitchen table (her legs are about 2" long), the second walk today, and finally napping. I feel like I'm back to having a 6 week old baby! Thank goodness she's cute! Thanks for all the great ideas - I'll be better prepared next time I agree to dog sit on a work day.
posted by ms_rasclark at 4:43 PM on December 15, 2011

Just wanted to chime in because my dog watches tv religiously. We used to leave animal planet on thinking he would enjoy it. We quickly realized that he gets pretty fired up whenever an animal is on, so he was probably barking his head off and bothering the neighbors. So if you are near others, its something to avoid.

Many commercials also feature animals, so now he watches cartoons and toddler channels featuring few live action animals or ads. He seems to like the sound effects of spongebob fwiw.
posted by halseyaa at 8:47 PM on December 15, 2011

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