Do Dogs Have a Sense of Time?

illustration of dog brain

If you are leaving the household, you very likely give your doggy a pet and convey to them you’ll be back again in a number of several hours. But have you at any time stopped to consider about what an hour – or a moment or a working day – indicates to a pet? Do pet dogs basically have a feeling of time? 

Perhaps your pup stakes out the doorway minutes before you are thanks to arrive dwelling. Or probably they start off carrying out circles to signal bedtime at the exact same hour each and every evening. Such activities direct doggy fans to surprise how their canine companions expertise time and if that experience is similar to our individual.

To discover how puppies understand time, we spoke with two puppy cognition industry experts, and what we uncovered may well surprise you.

Do Pet dogs Have a Strategy of Time? 

Dr. Evan MacLean is the founder and director of the Arizona Canine Cognition Heart. He’s also an affiliate professor at the University of Arizona, where by he holds appointments in veterinary medication, psychology, cognitive science, anthropology, ecology, and evolutionary biology.

“Although a feeling of time has not been researched a lot in dogs, there have been lots of research on how animals make judgments about time,” Dr. MacLean says. “It’s almost selected that canines share these essential cognitive procedures with other animals.”

Dr. Mindy Waite, a qualified pet dog behaviorist at Senior Tail Waggers, suggests that there is no investigation about whether or not puppies can perceive time in terms of several hours and times. But that doesn’t indicate our furry pals do not fully grasp time at all. 

“We have all experienced the expertise where an animal’s habits starts off to improve all over the time of a selected action,” she claims. “For case in point, quite a few canine evidently can inform when their people are about to get there household, when it is practically time for a wander, or when their meals is about to be shipped from an computerized feeder.”

So, though research into the subject is reasonably minimal, professionals agree that dogs do have a limited feeling and comprehension of time.

How Canines Perceive and Encounter Time

Dr. MacLean says a dog’s mind has “at least two different cognitive methods.” These systems are periodic timing and interval timing. 

Periodic timing is another way of conveying the 24-hour clock or circadian rhythms that govern when we rest and when we’re productive.

“Periodic timing controls points this kind of as when to wake and rest and when to forage or perform other behaviors that happen at approximately the similar time every single day,” Dr. MacLean describes. “This system probably permits canine to anticipate quite correctly when folks might return from work or when the following meal is due!”

On the other hand, interval timing relates to distinct education. Imagine of Pavlov’s famed dogs and their bell. “Interval timing tracks shorter, arbitrary durations. For case in point, you could coach a pet dog that 30 seconds just after a tone appears, they will get a food items reward,” Dr. MacLean suggests. “If accomplishing this consistently, canines would come to be pretty accurate at predicting the instant food stuff will be delivered.”

Also, analysis reveals pet dogs have “episodic recollections,” which suggests they don’t forget situations or episodes [1]. So indeed, your doggy remembers that you depart for operate each morning at the exact same time and will be absent for an extended period of time. Blend this sort of “episodes” with periodic timing, and you start to get a feeling of how puppies understand time.

A dog’s sense of scent also plays a element in how they practical experience time. Alexandra Horowitz is a psychologist at Barnard College and the author of “Inside of a Dog.” In her finest-providing guide, she suggests, “Scent marks time.” By that, she implies canines can use their solid scent receptors to gauge the freshness of a individual scent. When you initially depart for the working day, your scent is strongest. As it fades through the day, that ought to suggest it is time for you to return quickly.

Dr. Waite explains that pet dogs might use adjustments in scents or other signals, like the place of sunlight and shadows, as predictive stimuli to measure time.

To summarize, it’s not so a lot that your pet dog is searching at the clock and counting down the several hours as considerably as they are paying attention to other cues. Your puppy probably understands time as a result of some mix of periodic timing, episodic memory, and environmental cues. 

Puppy Time vs Human Time: Is There a Distinction?

Human beings have a background of creating constraints in their natural environment. Our contemporary life revolve all over the clock. You may possibly have a 2 p.m. conference or prepare to meet up with up with pals at 7 p.m. Nonetheless, your doggy most likely doesn’t realize time to that degree. Rather, canines count on daily routines and cues for a sense of time.

For illustration, if you go away dwelling 5 times a 7 days at 8 a.m. and return at 3 p.m., your canine might be ready to gauge the “usual” quantity of time you are long gone many thanks to specific mind exercise.

A review from Northwestern College cites a recent discovery of neurons that seem to “turn on” when an animal is ready [2]. These neurons are recognised as the medial entorhinal cortex, and the review experimented with mice in a digital surroundings. In the study, the mouse ran on a bodily treadmill down a virtual hallway. The mouse arrives at a doorway, and 6 seconds later on, the doorway opens, and the mouse continues down the hall for a reward.

After a couple trials, the scientists made this door invisible, but, a transform in the floor’s texture determined the door’s area. The mouse stopped ahead of the now hidden doorway, waited 6 seconds, and continued scurrying down the hall.

Whilst dogs are not mice, they have a equivalent understanding of time. You can coach them to assume rewards immediately after a specific tone or command. They also rely heavily on environmental cues.

Experts say there is inadequate research to explain to if canine have a additional elaborate knowledge of time, these kinds of as how quite a few hrs, times, weeks, or months have passed. Nonetheless, we do know routines are significant for reinforcing your dog’s convenience.

The Relevance of Routines for Canine

Dog sitting by door waiting for owner

Puppies recognize the framework and predictability of routines. There is comfort and ease in understanding when to expect the following outing and mealtime.

When the regime is disrupted – it’s possible you are caught in targeted visitors and get dwelling two hrs later than your dog expected – then your dog can experience upset and nervous. In some instances, puppies acquire separation stress which is a way they present distress. Even though many matters can lead to separation stress, it is typically a huge change in plan – like a new perform plan for the human beings, transferring houses, or losing a different pet.

Following all, major variations can be stressful for anyone. To enable your puppy change, the faster you can establish (or maintain) a routine, the far better your pup will acquire it. Routines permit your dog know when to count on walks, foods, and the home comings and goings – and eventually support your puppy experience a lot more at simplicity. 

The Base Line

Puppies could not comprehend time in the precise way that individuals do, but our canine companions do mark time working with their senses, routines, and environmental cues. Additional study is still desired to know accurately how a dog’s brain comprehends minutes, hrs, days, weeks, and several years. 

Nevertheless, a single detail is for guaranteed: while dogs may possibly not understand what you indicate when you say, “I’ll be again in a handful of hrs,” prospects are they will be waiting around by the door when you return home.  


  1. Malanowski, S. Is episodic memory uniquely human? Evaluating the episodic-like memory analysis system. Synthese 193, 1433–1455 (2016). 
  2. Heys, J.G., Dombeck, D.A. Evidence for a subcircuit in medial entorhinal cortex representing elapsed time through immobility. Nat Neurosci 21, 1574–1582 (2018).

The article Do Puppies Have a Sense of Time? appeared initially on Excellent Pet Treatment.