If you have ever found your dog waiting at the door just before the two of you go out for your regular walk, you may wonder whether or not they have any concept of time. We all feel like we have our own internal body clock that reminds us of certain daily things, but can the same be said for pooches? Of course, this is the type of question which doesn’t have an absolutely conclusive answer, but we can look at the evidence in more detail in an attempt to come up with some ideas one way or another.
When we are looking at the concept of time in other animals, we can’t help but look at ourselves as an initial reference point. But we have the advantage of having constructed our own way to measure time precisely, which is obviously not one which is shared by the rest of the animal kingdom. Indeed, we always have a temptation to humanize other animals in any way that we can. Our memory system is also highly advanced, so we can think in detail about past events and wonder what the future will hold for us.
How Do Dogs Track Time?
Since dogs don’t wear watches or use calendars, we may quite rightly wonder how they keep track of time. Well, there are a few scientific answers that can shed a bit of light on the issue. Animals have an internal clock which is known as a circadian rhythm. This 24-hour cycle responds to external cues – namely, the presence of light or darkness. While your dog can’t think “it’s six o’clock, it must be dinner time”, their body can get used to eating at this time every day. This event will become ingrained in their brain, which is why you may find your furry friend waiting patiently (or not so patiently) at their bowl for you to feed them.
Another thing that we can say about dogs and time is that they are capable of learning from past behavior. This is how we are able to train them to do certain things. However, the way that we remember the past is by connecting it with other events or thinking about what age we were. Again, this is something that dogs have no concept of. Dogs will think in terms of how long it has been since an event last happened. Of course, this can also be connected to the way that they are feeling as well. They are bound to feel hungry if they have not been fed in a long time.
But there are also other ways that time can affect dogs. If you have ever been on holiday and found that your dog is twice as affectionate as normal towards you, the longer amount of time that the two of you have been separated has had a clear effect on them. This shows that dogs are able to recognize and respond to different lengths of time. And if you have ever seen any videos of pups being reunited with their owners many years after parting, you will know that dogs have a long memory, and the strength of the bond between owner and pet is extremely strong.
Dogs and Separation Anxiety
If you have a dog who suffers from separation anxiety, you will already be well aware how strong this can be. The difference between you being away for a few hours and a few days can feel enormous to them. There are a host of symptoms which demonstrate clear separation anxiety including destructive behavior, whining, barking, pacing, and going to the bathroom in in appropriate places. Dogs who have been mistreated in the past are more likely to suffer from separation anxiety.
If your dog suffers from this condition, you will want to do everything that you can to make life better for them. First, you can create a space for your dog that they can call their very own. It should have a bed, toys, a blanket, and maybe even a worn item of your own clothing that they can associate with you. If your dog can smell your scent, there is every chance that this can have a calming effect on them.
One of the main ways that dogs can deal with separation anxiety is by sleeping. This will help take them to the time that the two of you will be reunited once again. What this also demonstrates is that dogs are creatures who like to live in the moment.
But there are also emotionally scarring events that stay with a dog. For example, if a pooch has been abused and mistreated in the past, this is something that doesn’t simply go away easily. That fear of humans often stays with them for life – and it can only be made better by enough positive experiences adding up to replace the bad ones.
While the evidence points to dogs having some understanding of the concept of time, it is certainly not as sophisticated as the way that humans perceive it. Dogs tend to live in the present, but their internal body clock can play a role in their daily behavior. For example, dogs get used to knowing what time they can go out for a walk and when they are going to get fed. It is the events that happened a long time in the past that they are not likely to remember – unless they were particularly strong emotional events. But there are other ways that dogs can respond to longer periods of time. A couple of the ways include separation anxiety and the joy that pooches feel when they are reunited with their owners after an extended period of time.
All of this tells us that dogs do have some sort of concept of time, but it is not exactly in the way that we would understand it.
- Do Dogs Understand Time? – Pet MD