Dogs are rightly recognized as man’s best friends due to their unquestionable loyalty and affable character.
But as a result, it can sometimes be easy to forget just how different the minds of these animals can be from the humans in the house.
And while there’s anecdotal evidence to suggest that dogs have a sense of time, the reality may be a little more complicated than first thought.
So, do dogs have a sense of time, or is it just a coincidence that they often realize when dinner is ready? Newsweek asked the experts.
Do dogs have a sense of time?
Scientists understand that dogs and other animals have implicit or unconscious memory.
Pavlov’s well-known dog experiments best illustrate how dogs boast of having an implicit memory when they associate getting food with certain triggers, like ringing a bell.
However, this is considered insufficient to prove that dogs have explicit memory.
Dr. Mary Burch, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Director of Family Dogs for the American Kennel Club (AKC), thinks that even if dogs have a sense of time, they probably lack a “concept of time.”
She said Newsweek“For years, when I went on vacation, I boarded my dogs. Being separated from the dogs I loved always ruined a relaxing vacation for me.
“I spent a lot of time worrying about what my dogs were thinking. ‘Is she coming back?’ “It’s been a week, it’s awful, how long do I have to stay here?”
“I said this to a well-respected vet, and she said it was her belief that dogs don’t mark time.”
“They had no idea when they were boarded whether they were there for three days or three weeks.”
“Long term, I don’t know if dogs mark three days or three weeks and most behaviorists would say the internal canine clock doesn’t work that way.”
What is more certain is that canids have no idea of the future. However, the AKC’s Dr. Burch remains convinced “they have an incredible sense of time” when it comes to their daily schedules and activities.
One study found that pets left home alone for longer periods of time greeted their owners more enthusiastically than dogs left alone for shorter periods of time.
Do dogs understand time?
This suggests dogs can differentiate between whether their owners have just returned from a 10-minute chore or a full day at the office.
Dr Burch added: “I walked my dog every day at 6:00 p.m. and without fail, within a short period of time, once we started this routine, my dog was showing up in my office within three minutes. 6:00 to go for this walk.
“The behavioral problem of separation anxiety is somewhat time-related. Although dogs may not think about the passage of minutes, as they are alone for an increasing number of minutes, they may become more anxious.
“The most effective treatment for separation anxiety is to step outside for just a second or two and come back immediately.
“Over time, the length of the owner’s absence gradually increases until the dog feels comfortable being alone.”