Forget superhero films and low-effort reboots of 80s classics - there’s a new genre in town.
Over the last few years, a new breed of audiovisual content has been steadily gaining popularity in certain corners of the broadcasting world: videos for dogs.
Yes, head over to YouTube and you’ll find thousands of hours of puppy-centric footage set to lento ambient beats designed to soothe stressed-out pups. TV networks and streaming services are also getting in on the action, with a bunch of premium channels now offering 24/7 canine content to help dogs alleviate stress and anxiety while their owners are away.
Whether or not these videos actually work is still up for debate. But Freya Mowat, a veterinary clinician-scientist and assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is determined to find out.
Video could be the key to better dog vision testing
According to Mowat, learning more about man’s best friend’s television viewing preferences could help researchers develop better methods of assessing canine vision.
“The overarching goal in this study is to figure out what dogs like to watch on television,” Mowat says in a press release from UW. “This is interesting from a dog behavior standpoint, but as dog vision researchers, we also want to develop engaging methods to test dog vision in either the home or clinic, which we currently just do not have.
Like humans, dogs experience eye changes with aging. However, objectively measuring these changes has proven to be challenging. While retinoscopy can help determine a dog’s visual acuity, it only works if the patient is cooperative and sits completely still - which, as we all know, isn’t always easy to achieve in a veterinary setting. Optical alignment is critical in retinoscopy, which means even slight head movements can throw off the accuracy of a test. And sedation is often out of the question as anesthetic agents may bring on unwanted side effects or interfere with retinoscopy results.
“We do know that canine retinal function does decline with age and can decline quite significantly,” Mowat explains. “So it’s more than likely that visual perception does change, but what that actually means from a lifestyle standpoint is the missing piece of the puzzle.”
Mowat believes that videos could help hold a dog’s attention long enough for physicians to gather important information about the patient’s visual function. The question is: what type of videos do dogs actually like to watch?
Play a part in the future of canine vision research
To learn more about the type of video content that resonates with canines, Mowat is inviting pet parents from around the world - including you and your clients! - to take part in a “Dog TV watching survey.” During the survey, you’ll be asked to provide information about your pooch’s screen viewing habits, as well as details about your dog’s age, sex, breed, and location.
At the end of the survey, you can optionally take things one step further by showing your pup four short videos featuring objects, animals, and other things that may be of interest to canines. You’ll then be asked to rate your dog’s interest in each video and how closely your pup tracked the moving objects in the video.
“We intend for this to be a fun activity for both dogs and their people,” Mowat says. “And we’d really love to get thousands of responses from individuals across the world, so we can better understand if dogs in Wisconsin like the same kind of videos as dogs in New York or Brazil or any other location.”
The results of the study may help Mowat and other researchers learn more about vision and behavior in canines, which in turn may lead to a higher quality of life for aging dogs.
Want to contribute to the research? Click here to take part in the survey. The questionnaire takes about 15 minutes to complete and you’ll need a computer, laptop, or tablet screen that both you and your dog can view.