Can Your Dog Tell Time?


Photo by J. Nichole Smith |

Are dogs capable of telling time? This question has long been debated in the scientific world as well as in the dog training world.

Many dog owners have experienced their dog's ability to seemingly recognize when it's dinnertime or time to go for a walk. But are dogs truly able to understand time in the same way that we do? And if so, how do they do it?

Researchers break up the concept of memory into two types: implicit and declarative memory. Implicit memory allows humans and non-human animals to repeat tasks that have been accomplished in the past, such as the muscle memory involved in riding a bike.

But scientists have not determined if dogs are capable of declarative memory, and more specifically episodic memory, or the ability to recall contextual information about past events. This involves understanding what occurred, when it occurred, and where it occurred. Studies have shown that primates are capable of this type of memory, but whether or not dogs have this ability has not yet been determined.

So can your dog tell time? 

There are several hypotheses about a dog's apparent time-telling behaviors. The first is that dogs simply follow their circadian rhythm, which tells their bodies when to sleep and when to be awake.

Another explanation involves scent. Scientists believe that a dog may be able to tell how soon you will come home based on how long your scent lingers in your house after you leave.

Dogs are incredibly adept at reading environmental cues. Even a small clue, such as the length of a shadow, can be an indicator of the time of day.

As more research is being done on the cognitive and emotional abilities of dogs, perhaps this age-old question will finally be answered.

Read more. 


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