The idea of television for dogs sounds like it should be part of a Monty Python (BBC, 1969-1974) sketch but it is a genuine subscription-cable television station available transnationally. Offering programming such as ‘Stimulation,’ ‘Relaxation’ and ‘Exposure,’ on its homepage (accessed 12/11/23), Dog TV advertises itself as:

Fig. 1: The webpage/advert for Dog TV

Much like the original HBO advertising which tied itself to distinction and quality (‘It’s Not TV: It’s HBO,’ McCabe and Akass, 2008, Lotz, 2007, inter multa alia), in the screenshot of the homepage above, Dog TV is clearly marketing itself as distinct (in both the Bourdieusian and lay senses) from just leaving the television on any channel when one leaves for work, errands or some other aspect of adult life which requires leaving one’s pet at home. This is somewhat reminiscent of the idea of television as either companion or as background noise, an idea common to the somewhat problematic ‘glance’ theory. If social media, rather than television, is now raising one’s children, perhaps television can be brought in to take care of one’s pets?

Fig. 2: My mother’s dog, Pepper, who enjoys (?) watching TV, especially Monty Python.[1]

Graham et al (2005) conducted a study of visual stimulation of dogs in animal shelters and how it did or did not impact their behaviours. While they found very brief attention was paid and that the dogs did seem to engage at least with the aural stimulation, the technology available in 2005 is very different to that in 2023 or even in 2012 when Dog TV was launched. Hirskyj-Douglas (2016) argues that dogs have been shown to engage with television and even to prefer certain types of images but she also notes that science ‘has yet to delve into the complex question of whether they actually enjoy it’ (2016: n.p.). This illustrates a major point with regard to something like Dog TV; it is less about what dogs would like or want and much more about the humans and the choices and preferences they make for their dogs. While Bonas et al (2000) argue that human-pet relationships can broadly be similar to human-human relationships at least in terms of support, González-Ramírez and Landero-Hernández (2021) found in an empirical study that the perceived-emotional connection between people and dogs was closer than that between people and their cats, even though there is greater interaction with cats and more perceived cost to a relationship with dogs. The study also implies that the dogs also need emotional support to a greater extent than cats and, as such, require the ‘companionship’ of the television. Cats, it would follow, would be expected to be fine on their own, even though, as the Dog TV co-founder’s (unverifiable) origin story expresses, there is also guilt involved in leaving one’s cat for the day.[2] While their study was confined to Mexico and, as such, may not be broadly applicable in other cultures with other norms relating to animals and/or pets, if one accepts that the perception of greater emotional closeness between humans and dogs (as opposed to cats) is key, then that explains why the channel seems to market itself on guilt.

In a study on charity advertising, Xu (2021) notes that advertising based upon guilt and/or shame has been repeatedly shown to be effective and that guilt ties in directly with ethical consumption, especially with regard to so-called ‘green’ products. Hibbert et al. (2007) similarly note that  the awareness of the use of emotional manipulation by charity advertising  does not necessarily negatively impact whether or not someone donates to charity. Chang (2014)  connects engaging in prosocial behaviour like donating to charity or engaging in another activity that is perceived to be for the public good through an  appeal  to one’s own personal benefit (egoistic) rather than to a societal benefit (altruism).  This is because the egoistic appeal connects to the viewer’s expectation that their donation/prosocial behaviour will lead to personal happiness. Which is all well and good for charities, but Dog TV is a subscription-based cable channel.

On the homepage itself, Dog TV states that it is specifically ‘designed to alleviate your pup’s stress and anxiety.’ I would argue, then, that the channel is using a very similar advertising mechanism to that of a charity appeal, here playing upon both the emotional closeness of the human-dog relationship as well as the perception that a dog needs more care and/or support (i.e., the ‘cost’ of the relationship) than a cat (González-Ramírez and Landero-Hernández, 2021). The fact that this is one of the few types of cable channels that can appeal to its (potential) viewers in this way also can be used to enhance its perceived distinction: i.e., ‘it’s not TV, it’s emotional/psychological support for your dog (who you leave alone for hours almost every day, you monster).’ The fact that most cable or other television channels cannot realistically engage in the same guilt-based advertising also can be read as allowing for such manipulation to either go unnoticed or at least to not negatively impact consumption (Hibbert et al., 2007).

The concept of a television channel for dogs (or pets in general) seems, on the face of it, ludicrous. While dogs can suffer from separation anxiety and act out as a consequence, simply leaving the television on as their companion can almost be read as anthropomorphising our tendency toward developing parasocial relationships with characters on television onto our dogs. And yet, as Dog TV makes clear, playing upon those discourses of guilt and its alleviation through an ethically-engaged or ethically-encouraged purchase is not simply confined to charity. As its engagement with discourses of distinction and, arguably, quality, in their marketing make clear, Dog TV is trying for more than niche/narrowcasting. Rather, it is presenting itself as a needed service and support for someone the subscriber loves, support which the subscriber cannot provide on their own. In essence, to gain and retain its audience, Dog TV reminds us – and guilts us – into realising that it is a dog’s life, and we are all just living in it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Pepper needs to talk to me about a dead parrot


Dr Melissa Beattie is a recovering Classicist who was awarded a PhD in Theatre, Film and TV Studies from Aberystwyth University where she studied Torchwood and national identity through fan/audience research as well as textual analysis. She has published and presented several papers relating to transnational television, audience research and/or national identity. She is suddenly an independent scholar. She has worked at universities in the US, Korea, Pakistan, Armenia, Ethiopia and for a brief time in Cambodia. She can be contacted at



[1]     Pepper recently refused to go to bed until she saw the entire ‘holy hand grenade’ scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975, dir. Gilliam and Jones). Photo courtesy of Barbara Beattie.

[2]     In an interview Dog TV’s co-founder, Ron Levi, states that guilt over leaving his cat every day was the inspiration for the channel (Oleck 2017).



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