thu 19/09/2019

Dogs: Their Secret Lives, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

Dogs: Their Secret Lives, Channel 4

Dogs: Their Secret Lives, Channel 4

Not to be confused with Horizon's 'The Secret Life of the Dog'

'He wants his mum'

What the Dickens is happening to wildlife television? At the back end of all those Atttenborough films they have a segment in which they explain how they got the miracle money shot of the chorus line of orcas, the war ballet of the giraffes, the Saharan ant colony. Well, forget all that. Television appears to have decreed that, wildlife-wise, pets are the new black. 

Earlier this year Horizon aired an underwhelming film about what cats get up to when you’re not looking. Answer: exactly what you’d expect. Before that it did one on dogs, explaining through the wonders of science how human they are. The Secret Life of Dogs is not to be confused with Dogs: Their Secret Lives which went out last night on Channel 4. This was a considered film about what dogs get up to when you’re not looking. Answer: your worst, tear-jerking nightmare. There are eight million dogs in the UK, and if the random sample tested here are any guide, around seven million of them show signs of panic, fear and frustration when their owners leave the house. We know this because a wall-mounted camera never lies.

Everyone talked politely about toileting. Which is not a word

Viewers were subjected to a series of horribly upsetting images – if you were the owner, that is – as dogs with prep-school names like Bruno and Oscar and Pip howled for hours on end until the boss got back. The neighbours had been telling them for years, but the power of television finally convinced them that yes, when out of sight their unimpeachable pooches really do go out of their minds and set off a fearful racket for hours upon end. A presenter with eyes like a St Bernard nodded with concern. “He wants his mum,” he said. The last time one read a zoology manual humans were not capable of giving birth to puppies, but you live and learn.

A whole battalion of dog professors and dog communications scientists and dog shrinks, quite a few of them cuddly bottle blondes, were on hand. Pioneers in labs measured cortisol levels and assessed infrared images measuring ear temperature and everyone talked politely about toileting. Which is not a word. Unless you train a dog to cope with solitude, someone sensibly said, you are condemning it to a lifetime of misery. All the dogs with issues were male, curiously. Nobody mentioned that.

The last time one read a zoology manual humans were not capable of giving birth to puppies, but you live and learn


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Share this article


Dogs know exactly what they are doing when their owners are away. They are going to try and get away with whatever they can. Just set up a camera while you are gone and you will definitely see.

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature


A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway


Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.



This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman


Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.


Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.