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How Do Dogs Tell Time?

How Do Dogs Tell Time?

     

 

     Prancing paws and bright eyes – your dog is ready for dinner! But how do they know? Are dogs capable of telling time? The answer is actually a bit more complicated than “yes” or “no” – and there’s a variety of factors that could be related!

     To talk more in-depth about dogs and their perception of time, we first need a basic understanding of time and how most animals perceive it. Many animals have what we know as body clocks, or circadian rhythms – according to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, these are in the brain and can tell what time it is based on genes and proteins activating in certain patterns. There are also several other ways an organism such as a dog could tell what time of day it is. If a critter is tired, it may be time for bed. If they’re hungry, it’s probably time to eat!

     But what about more specific time-telling? Does your dog have an extremely accurate sense of what time it is? There are many theories – one relating to an intriguing theory about mice telling time. In an article by the AKC (American Kennel Club), I found a fascinating bit of research relating to animals being able to track time. The mouse study was a study where they put mice on tracks with different textures, and managed to teach them to wait for exact amounts of time for a reward. Pretty incredible, but we’re still determining if this is just for mice or if it relates to dogs too.

     This brings us to what I think is one of the most incredible theories of dogs and time – a phenomenon known as “smelling time.” Let’s talk about how humans smell time. If you smell a carton of milk, and it smells awful, you can tell that it’s expired. In a way, you are smelling time – you can tell from smell generally how far past the due date the milk is. Smelling time, however, is much more complicated for dogs. According to the Phoenix Veterinary Center, humans have about 6 million olfactory receptors in their nose, while dogs possess a whopping 30 million olfactory receptors! According to this site, a dog could sense one single drop of liquid among 20 Olympic-sized pools – that’s a lot! Throughout the day, scents are constantly appearing and fading away. This makes it so dogs can tell how long it’s been since a certain event, and what event will happen next. Combinations of many scents that are correlated to events in a dog’s life at different times can give dogs a clue of what has happened – and what’s going to be happening next.

     Gee! It seems like there are a lot of reasons why dogs can tell time. The answer likely lies in some combination of these ideas. We still don’t know how dogs tell time for sure, but research and curiosity give us many hints into the lives of our floofy friends!

     Thanks for reading this installment of Clara’s Doggy Dictionary! There should be at least one or two more articles before the end of the year, so stay tuned.

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