Your furry friend often behaves in ways that make you wonder if he can keep track of time. If you’re always at work or school, you may also be concerned about your dog missing you for long periods. Whatever the case is, one question comes to mind:
Do Dogs Have A Sense Of Time?
Unlike humans, dogs don’t have the memory capacity that gives us our sense of time. Instead, they have episodic memories, which allow them only to remember specific events. However, dogs tend to smell the passage of time by sensing the changes in the air.
Although dogs and other animals cannot read clocks, they manage to keep track of time. They can do this through the circadian rhythm, a cycle of roughly 24 hours in their psychological processes. It enables them to respond to cues such as the cycle of day and night.
Can Dogs Tell Time?
You may notice that your dog knows the exact time it takes for dinner to get served. Some dogs can tell the amount of time it takes for their owners to get to the door after grabbing their leash. This behaviour can make you wonder whether your dog can tell time.
It has been shown scientifically that some animals have a sense of time. But, of course, dogs do not read clocks or hold stopwatches. Their sense of time is just a habit. For dogs, it’s more like judging time than telling time.
According to research, animals’ brains contain neurons that get activated when they are awaiting an expected outcome. A team of researchers from the Department of Neurobiology, Northwestern University, discovered that unknown neurons in their brain get activated when animals are in waiting mode.
The activated neurons are situated in the brain’s temporal lobe, which is where spatial memory is encoded. However, according to the Northwestern University study, time memory might also be encoded in that area of the human brain.
Do Dogs Have A Sense Of Time?
The reason why we have a sense of time is because of our memory. Frequently, people who suffer from memory loss experience a distorted perception of time. Animals have a simpler memory than humans.
Dogs cannot remember all the events happening in their life. They have episodic memories, which allow them only to remember specific events. For example, your dog will remember when you leave the house, but we will certainly not know how long you were away.
However, dogs are aware of the passage of time. You can easily see that in how stressed they can be when you leave them alone. The longer your dog stays by himself, the more stressed he will be. This stress stems from your dog’s separation anxiety.
Here’s a fun fact. Dogs tend to smell the passage of time by sensing the changes in the air. For instance, the air is hotter in the afternoon, and dogs can sense it.
How Do Dogs Keep Track Of Time?
We all know that dogs cannot read the clock and don’t have watches. So, it’s normal to wonder how they track the passage of time. Animals possess something called a circadian rhythm, a cycle of roughly 24 hours in their psychological processes.
The circadian rhythm responds to cues such as the cycle of day and night. Dogs don’t tick off time units in their heads. Instead, they keep track of time using the circadian rhythm to respond to a particular physiological state they attain at certain times of the day.
Some animals use markers such as the sun’s position in the sky to keep track of time. Some researchers believe that dogs can somehow smell time.
Alexandra Horowitz, a dog cognition researcher, wrote a book about how dogs can track time using scents.
Different scents move around your home every day. As these scents come and go, your dog can use their strength to track how long an event occurred or how close they are to a particular event. For example, if you have a regular schedule for feeding your dog, he will anticipate the next news based on the strength of the food remaining in his bowl.
Also, your dog will anticipate your return from work based on the strength of your lingering scent in the front door if you go to work at the same time daily. However, dogs may find it to be more challenging to keep track of longer periods.
So, while your dog may find it easy keeping track of when dinner is supposed to be served, they can’t know when your birthday or Christmas is around the corner.
How Does A Dog’s Sense Of Time Impact Training?
According to AKC evaluator Adrienne Kepp, a dog’s sense of time plays a major role during training. For instance, in competitive obedience training, if the dog is expected to perform a three-minute down, it’s best to train him with a five-minute down, eight-minute down, etc.
Consistent training for a particular duration trains your dog’s brain to anticipate that exact amount of time. That’s possible because most of your dog’s behaviour is governed by repetition and habit. For example, you may notice that your dog wakes up or goes to bed at a particular time every day.
It’s not because he sets the alarm on his watch. Instead, it’s a habit formed due to consistent repetition over a long period. Also, the dog’s habits result from some surprising neurons that help animals keep track of time.
Your dog can tell when it’s time to sleep and wake up. But does he have a sense of time? Not really! A dog may know when it’s time to perform certain activities, thanks to his Circadian rhythm. He does not, however, know the amount of time that has been spent.
Sometimes dogs make us think that they understand the passage of time when they use their keen sense of smell to figure out patterns. Fortunately, this plays a major role during training as a dog’s behaviour is governed by repetition and habit.