Can Dogs Tell Time?

Most people have their dogs on some sort of a schedule.

There are regular feeding times, trips outdoors, and maybe even a regular bedtime. You set this schedule initially for your convenience. But before long, your dog starts keeping you to that schedule whether you want him to or not.

Most dogs know when it’s time for something.

But many dogs seem to somehow inherently know that it’s 6:00 and time to get up, even if they don’t need to go out. They know that it’s 5:00 and time for Dad to get home from work. It can make you wonder if they really do check out the clock to see what time it is.

It’s easy to understand to a point how dogs know when it’s suppertime. The alarm clock in their tummy goes off and tells them it’s time to eat again. Even dogs who seem perpetually hungry—or at least ones that will eat any time—seem to know almost to the second when it’s suppertime. Same thing with going out for potty breaks; their bodies tell them it’s time to go out.

Uncanny Timing.

But it isn’t always that cut and dry. Let’s say you work from home and your spouse works away from the house. Your spouse leaves every morning about 7:30, calls you over lunch, and gets home around 5:00. At 4:55 every day your dog wakes up from his afternoon nap, plops down in front of the door, and waits for your spouse.

Suppose your spouse is late getting home. You knew from your lunch phone call that your spouse would be half and hour late home from work, so you’re not worried. But by 5:05, your dog is looking at you with a, “Where’s Dad?” look on his face.

How do dogs know when it’s time for something?

How did the dog know your spouse should be home? Clearly, he didn’t hear the sound of the car on its way home. In fact, your dog isn’t picking up any indication of someone’s arrival. So how does he know?

Your dog may be able to sense a family member’s absence by smell. When you’re home, your scent is very strong. After you leave the house, though, it begins to fade. Since most people are gone pretty much the same amount of time every day, through repetition and experience your dog knows that once your scent fades to a certain degree, it’s time for you to come back home.

Other scents in the room may help dogs discern different times of day. Air is constantly circulating through rooms, and as cold air lowers and hot air rises, ambient odors in the room can vary.

Dogs are also incredibly observant animals. They can hear things we don’t know are making noise. They can smell odors people can’t even imagine. Sounds and odors open a world to our dogs we can’t perceive and may well give our dogs clues we can’t imagine.

However they’re able to do it, dogs do know when scheduled things should occur. And they will hold you to that schedule whether you like it or not.

Meet the Author: Pam Hair

Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.

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