Can Your Dog Tell Time?

Most days, it’s quite easy to take our Titan out for a few walks a day. With shift work it’s really an “either/or” situation; he may get several walks if I’m home or he may just get one in the morning and one in the evening if I’m working. Titan’s walks are as continental as my work schedule, but we always seem to make it work. When I do come home, he definitely knows what time it is. He has grown to be so massive and heavy that I literally try to sneak into my own house because he beats my daughter and hubby to the door every time. He wants affection NOW and he will jump, lick and bolt his way in to get a good petting and scratching. It ‘s a fine line between “I’m happy to see my owner” and “I need reassurance after suffering from separation anxiety. Good heavens what took you so long”! Why does he get anxious if he knows I’ll be home soon? Or does he get anxious only if I’m late getting home? Either way he’d have to have a concept of time.

So that made me wonder – can dogs tell time? He seems to know when his walk times are. So why does he eat my walls and chew up the carpet when I’m away?

As it turns out, research has studied pups that have been left alone for varying periods of time by their owners and found that pups are more affectionate when left for longer periods of time. (So true for our Titan! He jumps, licks and barks and that is a lot to take in when your dog is your height on his hind legs and 100lbs!) This goes to show that pups actually do have a concept of time and it is based on a modified version of what humans call episodic memory; that is, recalling events of a specific time and place.

As perfect as pups are, they are not 100% mindful; they are taught based on past experiences and are able to learn to anticipate future events based on past experiences. However, dogs can only conceptualize time based on how much of it has passed since an event has occurred (i.e. its been hours since my water bowl has been topped up). Despite having a concept of time, pups mostly live in the moment – that’s why they never get used to you being away. But, it also means that they forget about yesterday and don’t worry about tomorrow. I hope I can get to that happy place one day.

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