I've never encountered a dog with a watch. Do dogs actually have sense of time ? Do they sense what time it is? Is their sense of time different from ours?

As human beings, we attach great importance to time. Our race has always been involved in it, long before the first calendars and clocks made the abstract concept of time 'visible'. Do dogs have a similar sense of time? Do they, like humans, attach importance to time? To figure this out, we first need to know when dogs were first domesticated and when time was first measured.

The answer to these questions is largely buried with prehistory, but it is possible to make a vague sketch. When were dogs first domesticated? It is estimated that dogs started living with humans about 14,000 years ago. More recent evidence suggests that the dog-human bond stretches back even further, to 33,000 years ago.

Nor is there any certainty about the start of time measurement. The oldest calendar we know of is only 10,000 years old. And the world's oldest timepiece is only 3,300 years old. Man has therefore been living together with his four-legged friend for longer than time measurement has existed. Dogs have obviously changed a lot over time since we first domesticated them. Have they taken over our obsession with time? Do they have any sense of time at all?

A look inside your dog's brain

Before we can figure out how dogs think about time – if they have a sense at all of time – we have to look at the dog brain. More specifically the pineal gland. This mini part of the brain is part of the endocrine system that produces, distributes and regularizes hormones. The pineal gland is partly responsible for the way humans and dogs perceive time.

The pineal gland produces a hormone called melatonin that influences a dog's sense of time as it affects the daily, seasonal and even sexual activity directs. Melatonin thus determines your dog's daily rhythm, also known as the 'body clock'. For example, melatonin influences how much sleep your dog needs and how long a day your dog is awake.

Melatonin production depends on the daily amount of sunlight. In autumn and winter there is less daylight and the body therefore produces more melatonin. In spring and summer, the body produces less melatonin. So a dog's sense of time has very little to do with philosophical musings, as it does in humans, but is entirely due to melatonin production by the pineal gland.

Time, habit and dog behavior

Of course energy consumption also has an effect on a dog's daily life. A dog gets used to certain activities that he does regularly/daily, such as eating and going for a walk. If you feed your dog every day at 8am and 6pm, he will be waiting for these routine events throughout the day. Dogs can't read a clock, of course, but according to circadian rhythms, they will associate a certain amount of light through the window with a bowl full of dog food.

The same goes for a physical activity when the owner rigorously does the activity at the same time every day. Does your dog bark next to his leash or at the door when it's time for his walk? Dogs don't need a watch, alarm clock or alarm to tell them the time, they listen to their bodies that have become accustomed to certain activities and patterns.

In general, dogs are creatures of habit. Some dogs even get nervous and mischievous when their normal habits, which happen at the same time every day, are done later or not. Of course hormones and habits play a role, but the routine is mainly linked by dogs to their owner. After all, the owner lets them out of the crate in the morning, the owner takes them for a walk in the afternoon and feeds them in the evening. So it's clear that that owner plays a role in how dogs understand time.

Do dogs have any sense of time?

How does the owner influence his dog's sense of time? The most recent hypothesis says that the way dogs understand time is related to their strongest sense, namely the sense of smell. This hypothesis needs further research, but it is certainly possible that dogs can smell the passing of time. For humans this is difficult to assume as we watch time go by. Smelling time therefore sounds ridiculous to us.

As every owner knows, separation anxiety is definitely present in dogs. The animal can behave destructively if you leave it alone. Whether for a short or long period of time, your dog will miss you. Is this because of the smell that dogs associate with us? Is it the presence or absence of that scent that tells the dog that time is passing?

What good is time for a dog?

The famous poet William Blake hated any prescribed version of time , and in his work he often referred to the dog as the creature to which we should mirror human behavior. These two ideas come together in his poem “Auguries of Innocence”. The poem opens with a wonderful imagination of what it would be like if you could 'hold infinity in the palm of your hand / And eternity in an hour'. But the rest of the poem highlights the harm that comes from ignoring the inherent freedom of the natural world. So what Blake is really saying: Don't forget to feed your dog according to his natural eating schedule.

Until science gathers substantial evidence, we can only guess whether dogs perceive the concept of time the same as humans do. People sometimes say “every dog ​​has its day”, but we will not immediately know what that “day” may entail. Is it just a series of sequential activities? Or do dogs understand time the same way we do? Do they sometimes think like us “what a waste of time” or “yeah, it's finally weekend”? What do you think?

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