Do dogs have a sense of time like humans? Read about what scientists have to say on the subject

by Kristiyana

You go out in the morning to go to the office, but you know you won’t be coming home immediately afterwards… This situation is quite common and if you live alone (or with a human roommate) there is nothing to worry about. However, if you are the proud owner of a dog, it is a bit more complicated. Afternoon/evening walk aside, you’re probably wondering if your dog misses you… Does the devoted creature suffer mentally while you’re away, especially if it’s longer than usual? Is it normal to leave the dog alone for, say, 10 hours? In other words, do dogs have a sense of time like us humans?

What is the dog’s perception of the passage of time?


Can our furry friends perceive the passage of time in the same way as a person? This question has long baffled dog behaviourists and veterinarians, but recent research may finally bring us closer to the right answer. And knowing whether dogs have a sense of time may well help their owners understand and care for them better.

Do dogs have a sense of time?



To explore the subject in depth, the journalists at the Inverse portal (link at the bottom of the page) put the question: “Do dogs have a sense of time?” to a few experts on dog nature. Here are their thoughts on the matter…

“It’s hard to say exactly how dogs feel about time,” said veterinary consultant Chyrle Bonk. You’ve probably heard the opinion that dogs have no sense of time and there’s little cognitive difference for them between, say, two minutes and two hours. Well, some experts agree, while others think this is a myth. According to proponents of the theory, for Laika, it doesn’t matter whether her human will leave her home alone for 30 minutes or 3 hours, because she’s always living in the present. But if that’s the case, isn’t it also true that a minute of pain can seem like an eternity to a dog? Isn’t that cruel?

It is also a moral dilemma


As you can see, the question: “Do dogs have a sense of time?” open up a lot of moral dilemmas. This leads many veterinarians to strongly defend the right of dogs to a better quality of life, including the right to pain relief during surgery.

Those who believe that the idea that dogs have no sense of time is wrong are just as many. Katherine Pankratz, a certified veterinary behaviourist, believes that our four-legged friends have some understanding of time intervals and can differentiate between a short and a long duration.

Many dog owners would probably agree. After all, it’s not uncommon for dogs to wake up or become restless and start waiting by the door or window shortly before their human gets home.

A 2011 study found that dogs “are affected by the length of time they have been home alone”, although the researchers could not confirm whether the dogs were aware of how long they were alone. So do dogs have a sense of time? Plausibly, yes, but it would not be correct to compare the general meaning of ‘time’ in the dog’s mind to our finely tuned human clocks.

Do dogs perceive time like humans?


Yui Shapard, small animal veterinarian and educational director of the Association of Asian Veterinary Medical Professionals, believes that dogs have a sense of time, but not in the numerical way that humans tend to think about it. “The concept of time itself is a human-made concept, so I don’t think dogs have the same understanding of time as we do,” she says. She adds that dogs probably have an “intrinsic” understanding of time, based on their biological clock.

Bonk agrees, adding that “dogs have their own chronobiology regulated by their natural circadian rhythm, hormonal fluctuations, etc.” This internal clock allows the puppy to be able to see the time of day. This internal clock allows the puppy to “tell time” when dinner is served or when its owners come home.

Going a step further, Pankratz says that environmental cues, such as the presence or lack of light, further regulate an animal’s biological clock and help it understand the passage of time. So do dogs have a sense of time? Apparently so, although it is quite different from ours! And even if your little companion can’t tell the time literally, your going out and coming in, as well as walking and eating at set times, will erase his anxiety and help him feel better. That’s it! Did you like this material? Find out also what do you need to know before you go to the dog park with your little four-legged friend.

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