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The Tale That Wags the Dog: Video for Housebound Hounds

November 17, 1989

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ A dogged entrepreneur has produced a high-tech solution for canine owners who feel guilty leaving their pets at home alone - a videotape to entertain housebound hounds.

″Doggie Adventure,″ a 25-minute video for the wet-nosed set, is designed to stimulate Fido, not turn him into a couch canine. Filmed from a pooch’s perspective, the tape portrays a non-stop romp through city streets, parks and a barnyard teeming with animals. Its creator hopes that dogs will sniff, howl and slobber along.

The VCR still must be turned on by humans, or activated by a timer.

Writing and producing a video geared for dogs just seemed natural to Harley Toberman, a Minneapolis businessman who says his recently deceased dog, Miss Piggy, was responsible for the project. The half-terrier, half-dachshund mongrel doesn’t appear in the film but her bark is featured on the soundtrack.

″She’s just been such a part of my life,″ Toberman said in an interview last week. ″I guess this tape we put together is basically a biography of her.″

Toberman, 44, said he is talking to some national retail outlets to try to bring the $14.95 tape to stores by Christmas. Meanwhile, it’s available by mail order.

Toberman, who runs a Twin Cities recording studio, said the idea came to him after an outing with Miss Piggy to a friend’s farm two years ago. The cows sent the dog into a frenzy, and Toberman filmed the scene with his portable camera.

″Every time she saw that tape, she’d start barking furiously,″ he said.

Guilt also played a role in the videotape’s creation.

″Many times, when we’d go out and do something and we’d tell her she had to stay, she’d have a real sad look on her face,″ said Toberman. ″It broke your heart.″

Filmed on location in Minneapolis and Hinckley, Minn., - during the dog days of August, natch - the tape cost about $15,000 to produce.

Stereophonic sound gives canine viewers an earful. A collar jangles, grass crunches underfoot - er, underpaw - and water is slurped up from a dish. The crunch of dog biscuits adds to the ambiance.

Toberman says a pet therapist recommended recording a variety of sounds to keep the dog’s attention. The therapist also suggested that the pet owner turn the volume up louder than normal to give the dog more of a sensation of being there.

Technical problems were numerous, said Toberman, most notably a scene that entailed taking the camera through pig slop.

″It was really grueling stuff, especially in August,″ he said.

The video has been tested already on a few neighborhood dogs, and according to Toberman, nearly all gave it a paws-up rating.

″These dogs would walk right up to the TV and put their nose right up to the tube and just stare at it,″ he said. ″It was uncanny.″

Added his wife, Kim: ″They don’t get to fall asleep. That’s it. They may be distracted for a moment, but they always come back.″

Toberman realizes his video must appeal to human eyes as well, so he made the tape in color. Dogs see only in black and white.

A cat video hasn’t been ruled out, but Toberman said it might be less effective because cats have a shorter attention span.

However, the entrepreneur is confident enough of ″Doggie Adventure″ to be planning a longer sequel.

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″Doggie Adventure″ is available by mail for $14.95 plus $2 postage and handling from Made for Dog Videos, P.O. Box 300122, Minneapolis, MN 55403.

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