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Do Dogs Have a Sense of Time?

November 11th, 2020

Do Dogs Have a Sense of Time?

Sometimes, dog owners wonder if their furry friends have a sense of time, especially when they leave for a trip  and the pet stays at a boarding facility. This blog will bring some information about the dog’s concept of time  and how is it different from how humans perceive it.

Humans have constructed measurements of time – hours, days, weeks, years, etc. – so that they can underst and its passage. Dogs, however, don’t have the concept of time in the same way that humans do, but they do underst and the passing of time in their own way. While the sense of time hasn’t been as widely studied as other areas of canine cognition, one of the most famous studies on dog’s sense of time was published on 2011, according to thelabradorsite.com.

This study was conducted with dogs with no history of separation anxiety, who were left alone for varying periods of time. During these times, data was collected on the dog’s behavior  and heart rate. The researchers found that the longer the dogs were separated from their owners, the more intense their physical response to their return.  Being left alone for two hours or more triggered the dogs’ excitement at the owners’ return. This led the authors to conclude that dogs are affected by the length of time they are alone. However, dogs don’t seem to be aware of the amount of time that has passed.

Alex andra Horowitz – founder of Dog Cognition Lab at the Barnard College of Columbia University – states in her research that dogs can “smell” time. For example, dogs can sense the changes in the air – when hot air rises over the course of the afternoon. Dogs can also interpret the intensity of smells in terms of the passage of time – a strong smell indicates a recent event, while a weak smell means that the event occurred in the past. Imagine taking your dog for a walk  and the scent of another dog around the corner comes to him on the breeze. Before the other dog is visible for you, your dog already knows that it’s coming! Dogs also sense when their owners come home  and this is supposed to be also linked with their sense of smell.

Senior dogs with cognitive decline experience distortions in their sense of time like humans suffering with dementia. Dogs with cognitive dysfunction syndrome may present signs of disorientation  and changes in the sleep-wake cycle that make it seem as their memory  and sense of time is impaired. Older dogs have been found to have the same amyloid plaques in the brain as humans with Alzheimer’s. These plaques can lead to problems with learning, impaired memory, spatial disorientation,  and w andering behavior.

So, if you’re planning your next trip  and need to board your dog, it would be a good idea to bring him for some play time at the boarding facility, increasing a couple of hours each day, so the time elapsed can be better managed by your dog. If doing so, you’ll help him to get used to the environment when he stays for a longer period  and will teach him that you’ll be back.

Have you ever payed attention to clues about your dog’s concept of time? We’d love to hear your stories …