Have you ever wondered how your dog always knows when you’re coming home? Naturally, your dog may be curious about your arrival, but do they know your schedule? Some may even be asking, “Can dogs tell time?” Fortunately, we sat down with Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Sarah Nold to learn more about your dog’s sense of time, routines, and what your dog may look forward to most of all during the day.
Can dogs tell time?
Dogs can have a wide variety of skills, but can they predict the time of day? Nold weighs in on if your dog can tell time.
“Dogs seem to appreciate a routine. I wouldn’t say that they can ‘tell time,’ but they usually have a general idea of when it’s time for their walk, time to be fed, or even when to expect you home. Also, their senses likely aid in determining where they are in their day, which is often based on your daily schedule for you and others in the household.”
A routine can be helpful for the entire family. Whether you have a new puppy, a new work schedule, or have recently moved, a set schedule can help keep all family members feeling organized. You may want to consider feeding, walking, and playing with your dog at the same time every day. This can help establish a set schedule for your pet to become used to during the day.
Your dog’s senses and time
While every dog is different, your best friend’s senses may play quite a role in their ability to know what may pop up next during their day. For example, does your puppy have a strong sense of smell, or have you noticed your dog can hear a noise from far away? Naturally, your pet’s senses may be a bit different than your own.
According to PBS.Org, “dogs possess up to 300 million receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in humans. Also, the part of the dog’s brain that analyzes smells is 40 times greater than ours.”
Also, your dog may love to smell people, places, and things, especially if they’re in a new environment.
Whenever you’re traveling, on a walk, or going to a new environment, consider letting your dog smell everything. Their nose may help them pick up clues and cues about who and what is around them. It can help them learn about their new environment.
Your dog may pick up on several different factors to help come up with how they process the time of day. Naturally, they have their sense of smell but don’t forget their sense of hearing or sight.
According to the University of Adelaide, “Dogs and people hear about the same at low frequencies of sound (around 20Hz). This changes at high frequencies of sound, where dogs hear up to 70-100 kHz, much better than people at only 20 kHz. Dogs hear sound frequencies at least three times as high compared to people.”
Further, your dog’s hearing can help determine events that take place based on sound. For example, your dog may react to loud noise, car door, or high-pitched sound and it can help them determine who or what may be nearby. For an additional resource on dogs and their sense of smell, check out this link.
How does your dog know when you’re getting home for the day?
Just like you may look forward to certain parts of your day, so does your furry friend! Your habits, schedules, and routines become a part of your dog’s day too. Naturally, they may get excited for an afternoon walk, dinner time, or a game of toss with the family.
Nold dives into some likely scenarios that may come up in your day-to-day with your best friend.
Consider the following:
Is it light or dark outside?
Was the mail just get delivered?
Did the garbage truck pick up the trash?
Did the school bus pick-up/drop-off the kids?
Do they smell your morning coffee or are you cooking a meal?
Also, consider introducing new people, places, things, and environments to your dog early on during training. This may help your dog with socialization, separation anxiety, and curbing behavior cues. Further, positive reinforcement and treats certainly can help make any new experience less troublesome.
For more on dogs and time, check out the video below from Inside the Animal Mind from the BBC.
Can dogs tell time? They may get a boost from their senses and the environment around them
Whether your dog is waiting for you at the door, barking at the trash truck, or is picking up the newspaper, chances are they use their senses and their environment to help determine which time of day it may be, and listening for a familiar voice may help!
is a digital content writer and editor for Trupanion. She spends her workday writing for the Trupanion blog. She loves writing about pets, being inspired by pets, and luckily gets to hang out with her rescue dogs all day long. In her free time, she enjoys exploring and traveling with her family. Her work has been featured on the DOGTV blog, KitNipBox blog, Get Your Pet blog, Fansided, among many others.