None of my dogs have ever watched TV. So I was frankly dubious about my sister’s claims that her dogs go crazy every time a certain pizza commercial comes on; she told me that when the dogs hear the pizza commercial music, they come running to the TV, and they leap in the air and whine when the close up shot of the pizza appears, where the single slice is pulled away from the sizzling hot pie and tendrils of cheese are stretched through the air. But why the pizza commercial, I asked? She said they always share pizza with their dogs, and they really like it! Hmm, I said.
Until I was at her house and witnessed the pizza commercial phenomenon for myself. Her two Jack Russell Terriers were snoozing on the couch and the TV was playing in the background while my sister and I talked. Suddenly, both dogs sat up and fixed their gazes on the TV. “Ha! It’s Round Table time,” my sister laughed. The dogs tilted their heads this way and that until the close up, when they both leaped off the couch and jumped in the air in front of the TV, as if they could somehow grab a slice of the pie out of the air for themselves. I was flabbergasted. Did they really recognize the pixelated vision as something they’d like to eat?
Not long after this, I was interviewing a dog owner at her home. She and her two lovely standard Poodles met me at the door, and I fussed over the well-mannered, healthy dogs for a bit. But when we prepared to sit at the dining room table to do our interview, she brought the dogs into the adjoining living room, and turned on the TV. The dogs jumped up onto her sofa and lay down, and she told me, “I’ll just put on a nature show for them. They’ll stay out of our way for a while.” I laughed, not sure if she was joking, but when she tuned the television to a PBS channel showing a forest scene, both dogs sat up, transfixed. They scanned the screen, clearly looking for whatever animal might appear in the scene. And when the camera panned the sky, taking in a picture of a bird flying across the forest canopy, one of the dogs barked in excitement. “Now, now,” my interviewee warned her dogs. “If you get too excited I will change the channel.” They seemed to understand, because both dogs lay down again, and we left the room. Again, if I hadn’t seen it for myself, I never would have believed it.
It was clear that my dog, Otto, had never been in a house before the summer day in 2008 when my husband and I adopted him from my local shelter. He jumped at every household noise, including the change of the washing machine cycles and the microwave’s “ready” ding. But he paid no attention to the TV, until about a week after we brought him home, a commercial featuring the Geico caveman came on. Some noise made him look at the TV, and when he saw the caveman’s hairy face, he jumped to his feet and started backing out of the room, growling and then barking, hackles raised. As soon as the caveman was no longer on the screen, he came back into the living room and lay back down. And he never did this again. The only thing he responds to on TV now is the sound of a doorbell. That will always make him growl and at least look toward the door, if not jump to his feet and bark at the door.
Do your dogs watch TV? Do they have favorite shows?