Oct 26

Dogs & Time, How Much Do They Know?

It’s hard for us to understand how, but dogs frequently seem to know when we’re coming home from work or if it’s time for their afternoon walk. Fact is knowing what time it is without a clock or point of reference is hard for us to comprehend. We’ve interwoven a 24-hour clock system into our lives so completely that for most of us the difference between 9 AM and 11 AM is tricky to tell without a watch. So how do our pets do it?

The puzzling nature of this has been studied by a few different scientists and the truth is we can’t know for sure exactly how they do it. One thing we do know is that dogs rely more on a natural cue and their own body to experience time in a way we’ve evolved out of. The closest we can come to understanding this is a rumbly tummy every day at a certain time in the morning means breakfast, then again in the afternoon for dinner. Sunlight might tell them one thing, darkness another. Of course, this is all dependent on their daily routine, how regular that is, and their energy level.

Other research suggests that dogs use some of their more regular senses like smell. When you leave your dog at home you take your unique smell with you, it’s no longer filling up the air with you. So hour after hour your smell dissipates inside. Dogs may be ticking off the place smells like you instead of the hours on the kitchen clock. After a while, they’ll know what your home should smell like after eight hours of you having not been there. Similarly, like a fingerprint, your car and your footsteps sound uniquely like themselves. Fido might bark their head off at the sound of the postman, but not when you jingle your keys to go for the lock.

However they do it, dogs tell time without any of the technological advances we’ve spent all of human history inventing. Which you gotta admit, is pretty impressive.


+ Colin Carlton,
Ruffin’ Wranglers