DOGTV is here (but can pooches master the remote?)

A West Highland white terrier named Ben seems to like his DOGTV, and his "mom" is OK with that.

I've never had a dog that showed any interest in television, but Denise Seilhamer of Center, Pa., says Ben is enjoying shows that are produced, developed and aired on DirecTV especially for canines. He has always watched television, she says.

"He has several favorite commercials, the ones with dogs barking and running. As soon as we heard about DOGTV, we counted down the days till we could check it out," Seilhamer said.

The broadcasts were free at first, then cost $4.99 per month. Alas, I'm not a DirecTV customer, so I couldn't see them. But Seilhamer was willing to share her reviews.

"What I like is that this is truly made for dogs. No annoying commercials, just video of dogs at play and at rest, running and exploring in the woods, playing Frisbee at the ocean, and sleeping in owners' arms."

Some segments show owners how to teach good behavior, with video of dogs answering the door without barking. Another segment had audio of thunder and a girl's voice saying to a dog, "It's OK. It's only rain."

So what does Ben think of having his own channel? He pays attention to the on-screen dogs and barks at them, Seilhamer said.

DirecTV news releases suggest that DOGTV would be especially good for dogs that are home alone for long stretches of time. Seilhamer says she and Ben, 5, are "home most days" with her daughter, Becky, 28, who is disabled due to the removal and treatment of a malignant brain tumor at age 3.

"Becky loves animals of all kinds and loves the channel, as they also show animals like monkeys, deer and birds in habitat and zoos. The music is very soothing, and I think Ben likes the 'relaxation' segments," which seem to extend the length of his afternoon naps, Seilhamer said with a chuckle.

They won't, however, let their beloved pet become a couch potato.

"This is just background entertainment and should not be used as a way to exercise or play with your dog," she said. "Our Ben gets daily play time and walks," she said.

Her husband, Terry, is the main dogwalker.

DOGTV was developed by experts including Nicholas Dodman, a well-known veterinarian and animal behaviorist at Tufts University, and trainer Victoria Stilwell from Animal Planet's "It's Me or the Dog." Go to for more information.

Puppy-mill crackdown

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has apparently closed a loophole that allowed puppy mills selling puppies via the Internet to escape regulation and avoid inspection.

I got the news in a release from U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and David Vitter, R-La., who say the regulation change is based on the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act, which they have introduced in the last three sessions of Congress.

I also got the news in an email from Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, who calls it a "huge victory." He credits "years of pressure from the HSUS" and "hundreds of thousands of emails" from animal lovers.

HSUS says the new regulations will also apply to "other warm-blooded pets," including kittens and other small mammals.

"Puppy mills" is a term used by critics to describe breeding facilities where large numbers of dogs are bred and puppies are raised in cages with little or no outdoor exercise or socialization.

Every animal lover has the power to shut down every puppy mill in the United States. All we have to do is NEVER buy an animal over the Internet. It's a really bad idea to buy an animal you have never seen, starting with the fact that your new puppy may arrive with severe health and behavioral problems.

Most pet stores buy puppies and kittens from very large breeders that ship them long distances, meaning most of them come from so-called puppy mills. When you buy a puppy-mill puppy, you are not "rescuing" it. You are fueling the demand that puppy-mill operators are happy to supply. You are perpetuating a life of misery for the male and female dogs that are repeatedly bred to fill the orders.


(Contact Linda Wilson Fuoco at

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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