Do Dogs Have an Internal Clock?

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I think that many people wonder if their pets have an internal clock because they always know when it’s time for food or a walk, but now it’s time to find out the truth.

Some individuals say that their beloved furry friend wakes up around seven or eight every morning and is always excited about the morning walk, but after this adventure, they know exactly when it’s time to eat their breakfast. How is that possible?

What kind of superpower is that? This question is found in almost every individual who owns a pet that stares at them, wags their tail and licks their face every morning at the same time and waits for you to wake up and meet their needs.

In addition, many dogs know exactly when you (or other family members) get back home from work or just watch TV together. So, here are some facts about dogs that will help you find out if they can really gauge time, according to experts. Read on for more info!

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Can your dog tell time?

Theoretically no, practically yes. There are a lot of factors that contribute to the creation of this phenomenon, such as the family routine, a good sense of light change and cycles, smell and so on. All of these things influence your dog and help them gauge time.

As you already know, the difference between dogs and cats is that dogs are very social pack animals that can’t live alone, so this is one of the reasons your dog integrates into your life and routine very quickly, unlike other animals. Of course, it doesn’t mean that cats can’t gauge the time, because, according to cat owners, they wake up at the same time every morning and know exactly when it’s time to eat as well.

“There are probably multiple components to a dog seemingly knowing it is time to eat – their feeling of hunger, the routine of the owner, as well as their circadian rhythm,” said Dr. Jason Rabe, DVM, a Los Angeles-based vet who has been practicing this work for 17 years.

“Dogs are also really in tune to their family group’s activity periods,” said Will Bruner, a pet behaviorist at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center in Colorado. “My dogs will sleep as long as I sleep, but as soon as I begin to wake or my breathing changes or I shift a little in the bed, they’re up. They will follow your family’s cues.”

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So, do dogs have an internal clock?

Well, technically not, but metaphorically yes, they can measure time. According to a recent study, dogs can tell time because they work based on certain mechanisms that can help them realize what stage of the day they are in and what kind of routine that part of the day involves. According to Dr. Rabe, this theory is entirely valid.

That being said, it’s very important to understand that all of these features and ‘superpowers’ were analyzed based on a combination of factors, such as smells, routines, lights and socialization process.

“Like most animals, dogs also are heavily influenced by circadian rhythms, where the amount of daylight influences their daily routines such as their sleep-wake cycles,” Dr. Rabe added.

As we said before, the smell is an important factor that can help dogs tell time. “The dog isn’t reading a clock as much as it is reading a level of scent in the home,” Dr. Rabe said. “So when you leave the house, your scent is at one level. As the day goes on, that scent level begins to decrease because you’re not there. Dogs are able to detect when a scent gets to a certain point, and they will get up and go wait by the door.”

“Every memory is a bit different,” said James Heys, a postdoctoral fellow in Dombeck’s laboratory. “But there are two central features to all episodic memories: space and time. They always happen in a particular environment and are always structured in time.”

Can you help your dog learn to tell time?

Of course, you are one of the most important factors in this equation, because their routine depends on you. So, you can actually help your dog learn to tell time.

“I think it’s something we’ve taught them to do with our routines,” said Dr. Victoria Hammer, DVM, of Johnstown Veterinary Associates in Johnstown, PA. “I don’t think out in the wild a wolf knows it’s lunchtime or that their leader of the pack is coming home. In part, I think there’s an internal clock that we’ve kind of created.”

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Is it a good thing for dogs to do that?

Just like anything else life, there are both advantages and disadvantages for dogs that have an internal clock, especially for those that are more likely to develop canine anxiety. It has been proven that dogs can actually fight off anxiety by sticking to a routine because it can comfort and stabilize them.

Unfortunately, just like humans, dogs can experience anxiety, which can adversely affect their overall health if left untreated. This disease can affect all breeds of all ages, but the symptoms can be different.

But you should create a daily routine based on your dog breed and their needs. For instance, if you have an Irish Setter, you have to provide them with a lot of space to run and plenty of exercises, because they are very active breeds. According to Dr. Bruner, “if you’re only very rigid on your routines, your dog is going to have a harder time accepting changes to those. If you provide a little variance in the routine, your dog will accept those changes better.”

In conclusion, yes, dogs know exactly what time their dinner should be ready and when to wake up to go for a walk with you. According to the American Kennel Club, “researchers at Northwestern University’s Department of Neurobiology found evidence that previously unknown neurons in an animal’s brain are activated when the animal is in waiting mode. The neurons are located in an area of the brain’s temporal lobe where we know that spatial memory is encoded. The study, published in Nature Neuroscience, set out to prove that this area of the brain might also encode time memory.”

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