Thursday, April 26, 2012

Raising Poochie Right

Okay, psychiatrists know about mental illness, but we are called on to comment all different types of issues regarding relationships, development, what transactions are likely to lead to mental health or mental distress.  I'm expanding our area of so-called expertise even further, and feel inspired to comment on an article in today's New York Times, "Should Your Dog Be Watching TV?"  

Regarding new TV programming made especially for dogs, Douglas Quenqua writes:

If your dog does show interest, it probably can learn from what it sees on a television, Ms. Anderson said. Exposing a pet to muted versions of everyday irritants like vacuum cleaners and doorbells, for example, is a time-tested method for reducing the animal’s fear of them. But an important aspect of the technique is amping up the volume as the dog grows comfortable — so, depending on how quickly a dog learns, the owner may want to hover nearby to turn up the DogTV volume.

But — of course — dog owners shouldn’t mistake TV time for quality time, animal behaviorists cautioned. “It definitely isn’t a substitute for play time with your dog,” Ms. Anderson said. “Exercise can solve a lot of behavioral problems.

Oh my, programming includes  grassy fields, bouncy balls, quiet vacuum cleaners,  scenes to comfort, entertain and teach dogs, and to address anxiety, agitation, and decrease separation anxiety.  It just makes me think that raising children is hard enough and you have to worry about what you expose your children to, how much time they spend in front of screens, whether you're using your TV as a babysitter, how you're going to schedule piano lessons so they don't conflict with tennis team, homework, and religious school.  The nice thing about having a dog is that it just gets to be a dog.  You walk the dog, pet the dog, feed the dog, be with the dog.  Until now, you didn't have to worry about all the influences on the dog: how much TV is the right amount of TV? Is it okay to go for a walk in the woods or will Rover miss an important learning segment on TV?  What if the dog finds some segments soothing  (is he just transfixed?  Is this healthy?) but finds other segments over-stimulating?  Look, yet more things to worry about, as if life wasn't complicated enough.

I may have to trade in the dog for a gerbil and hope they don't invent Rodent TV.