Do dogs have a notion of time?

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If you’ve ever wondered how your puppy always seems to know when it’s time for dinner, you’ve come to the right place.

As a dog owner, you may have noticed that your puppy sits by his bowl at 5 p.m. every night, or that he receives the zooms in the minutes before his 7 p.m. walk. Maybe Fido is even more reliable at waking you up in the morning than your trusty alarm clock (uh, hello, it’s breakfast time!). If so, you may have wondered: do dogs have a sense of time? Because it looks like your puppy has figured out how to read the clock. To get to the bottom of this strange phenomenon, we asked a behavior specialist how dogs perceive time and memories. It turns out it’s a lot more complicated than you might think. If you want to learn more about what’s going on with your puppy, find out the reasons for this other weird dog behavior.

True talk: can dogs tell the time

The answer is yes and no. “We don’t know for sure what the dogs’ time perception is because we can’t really ask them,” says veterinarian Andrea Tu, DVM, medical director of Behavior Vets of New York. “But we know they are capable of measuring time.”

However, just because dogs can measure time doesn’t mean they perceive it the same way humans do – and they certainly don’t understand our concept of a ticking clock. But before we get into how your puppy likely perceives time and memory, it’s important to introduce the two types of human memory: semantic and episodic. Dogs have one and (probably) not the other.

  • Semantic memory: this type of memory includes the general knowledge that we have accumulated throughout our life – things like facts, ideas and meanings. (For example, remembering that your dog’s name is Sadie and his fur color is called white.)
  • Episodic memory: this type of memory includes our recollection of experiences and events in our lives. (For example, your recollection that the day you adopted Sadie, she curled up in your lap at the shelter and you got lost on the way home.)

As you may have guessed, dogs have semantic memories. They can remember verbal commands, body language cues, and other details that they have learned throughout their lives. It is their ability to recall episodic memories that are a little less clear. If you think your pet is impressive enough, then wait until you read about these 19 Superpowered Dogs That Will Amaze You.

OK, so how does my dog ​​know it’s 5pm – that is, dinner time?

It’s a breathtaking phenomenon: every day at 5 p.m., your dog paces in front of his bowl or comes to find you. This is one of the many behaviors that make us wonder if dogs have a sense of time. Does she know it’s 5 o’clock? Not enough. Instead, she likely picked up on a series of events that in the past have meant dinner was on the way.

For example, you’ve just come home from work, the sunlight in the house is 70%, and her tummy is, well, a little empty. Once she recognizes this pattern, she will behave accordingly (as in, she will go find you so that you can speed up the whole process of food in the dish). And when that happens, “it may seem like they know the weather,” says Dr. Tu. Besides these delicious croquettes, here is what your dog really expects from you.

If my dog ​​can remember this sort of thing, does he have any other memories?

Here’s where it gets a little confusing: Dogs probably don’t have the same episodic memories that humans do, but they can form circumstantial memories. A common example would be going to the vet. “Let’s say they went to the vet and everything was okay, then once something terrible happened – maybe their fingernail got cut a little too short or something. another happened that upset, ”says Dr. Tu. “The next time they visit that veterinary clinic, they might remember that the last time they were there something overwhelming happened. They may not know it happened last July, but they are capable of forming these types of associations. “

Can dogs measure periods of time?

In many cases, yes. A study published in the journal Applied science of animal behavior found that dogs left home alone for longer periods of time greet their owners more enthusiastically than dogs left alone for shorter periods. This means your dog can totally tell if you’ve just returned from a 10 minute run or a seven hour work day. While we’re on the subject, here’s how long it’s okay to leave your dog home alone.

Trainers can also attest that dogs have a sense of time since they can learn to sit or stand for specific lengths of time, such as five or 15 seconds. “They are quite capable of getting a sense of how much time has passed,” says Dr Tu.

So what does all of this mean?

Ultimately, your dog’s sense of time and your dog’s ability to understand it may be stronger than you might think, but at the end of the day, there is still a lot we don’t know. So while it’s certainly true that your puppy hasn’t developed the ability to read the kitchen clock, we’re unlikely to ever know exactly what’s going on in their mind. Next, find out the 30 things your dog wants you to know.


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