Fido Knows What Time It Is
June 2, 2018
I mean, technically they can’t let you know it’s 5:03 PM on a Tuesday, but they can sense time in different ways. That’s right folks, your dogs can tell time.
They use basic biology to achieve this epic feat, one way being a circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm is defined as a roughly 24-hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings and can sometimes be modulated by external cues such as sunlight or temperature.
This basically means that, like you and I, your fluff butt pooch has a natural 24-hour body clock. It’s like if you took a nap on the same spot on the couch, at the same time every day for 30 days. On the 31st day, if you were to sit in that same spot at that same time of day, but decided not to take a nap, you would find that you begin to feel more and more tired. That’s because you’ve set your body’s natural clock to sleep, and it works the same way for dogs.
Although, there is a difference between us and our canine companions when it comes to the circadian rhythm. Their rhythm is much more adaptable and easily interrupted. That’s why your pooch can go from a deep dream induced sleep to jumping wide awake ready to go for a walk or play fetch (Frost….!), whereas with us, its much harder to wake up and switch gears that quickly.
Now, there’s another way that dogs can tell time too. Dog cognition researcher Alexandra Harowitz wrote recently that dogs could be using their noses, and from personal experience I could certainly see how this would be the case.
Running a home daycare with scheduled morning drop-offs, and afternoon/evening pick-ups, you start to see a pattern among the regular daycare kids, at the same time there’s some confusion coming from our boarders.
It’s thought that a dog can use your scent to tell how long it’s been since you were last in the room. So, say you pick your pup up at 5 PM from daycare everyday, at 4:30 PM, your dog can recognize that the front door smells the same way it did every day before, right before you came to pick them up.
So for our regulars here at daycare, Rico gets picked up at 3PM, Rory at 4PM, Juno and Roman both at 4:30PM and Sully at 5PM. You can tell at 4PM, after Rory has been picked up, Juno and Roman both get a little antsy because they’re excited to go home, but Sully, who is reactive to seeing people, doesn’t even stir on the dog bed he’s curled up on, because he knows it’s not his turn yet, and when it is his turn, he still doesn’t bark because he already knows who it is that’s knocking.
But then you turn and see Willow, our boarder for the weekend, who doesn’t come for daycare. She’s boarded with us before, so she’s familiar with the other pups, and the rules here, and she’s very well behaved, but when there’s a knock at the door and one of her friends goes home, afterward she’s very clearly on edge and anxious, because she expected it to be her parents. That’s because she doesn’t have a designated smell to be able to use as a marker.
The same goes for Riley, even though he’s technically a regular daycare attendee, he only comes 1 day a week, so it’s much harder for him to determine when his mom will be back for him. Also, he loves people, so when people knock it’s always exciting, because it’s a dog lover that hands out belly rubs.
Now sometimes Rico comes to board with us instead of daily daycare. He’s 13 and he’s set on his schedule man. Try to change it on him, he gets sassy. So when he came to board with us for 12 days, and everyday he watched his friends go home instead of him, he was UPSET. By the time the day came for his dad to come and pick him up, Rico was so thrown off he didn’t expect it. He was so excited and lively to see his dad again!
But even though they can tell when it’s time for dinner, time for a walk, daycare or pickup time, they still probably won’t be able to tell you how many days until Christmas.
Your dogs can tell time, but they won’t be offering to turn the clocks back for you any time soon!