Can your Dog Tell the Time?

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Do you ever find yourself wondering if your canine friend has a concept of time? For example, if you are out for half an hour or four hours does your dog really know the difference, and does he know when the clock is ticking towards dinner or walk time? At this stage research dictates that time is an abstract concept which is beyond your dog’s ability to perceive, however many a dog owner would dispute this. Many owners say their dog knows when they are about to arrive home, when it is time to be fed or go for a walk so in our latest blog Scientific Nutritional Products takes a look at this conundrum!

Human beings have what scientists call an ‘episodic memory.’ This means that our understanding of time is based on specific memories of the past, awareness of the present and an anticipation of the future. We think of time as a specific set of periods and events, which we categorise in our brains. This leads us to lead our lives holding onto specific dates such as wedding anniversaries, Christmas and resulting in us having short and long term routines. Dogs are different as they do not categorise time in this way but they do learn to recognise routines and behavioural patterns as opposed to defined time.

Your dog does not have an episodic memory like yours so he doesn't think of time in concrete terms but this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t remember at all! Canine's memory allows them to learn by forming an experience. For example,  is attacked and hurt by another dog, he won’t necessarily remember the event later but he may experience fear when he sees another dog of that breed. He may not be mulling over his last trip to the vet’s whilst hanging out at home but certainly on a return trip the scents and sounds of the waiting room will trigger emotions and likely trigger memories.

Our dogs learn by behaviour and association and throughout the day your dog will be exposed to triggers which help him understand what is going on around him. Your canine friend will observe your behaviour to help guide him. For example, if you always put on your coat before leaving the house your dog will learn that this action means that you are leaving and your dog will then behave according to this fact. Collectively the events he observes and remembers form a daily routine which he understands.

This therefore means that our canines can anticipate events accurately. If your dog always waits at the door when you arrive home, unfortunately it is not because he can tell it is 6:00 p.m. Typically it is because a series of events have occurred that add up in his brain. Perhaps your neighbour always arrives home just before you do, so he knows your car is likely to be next. In addition we can't forget that our dog's hearing is exceptional, so he can probably hear your car when it is pulling into the street and once you've parked the car he can smell you and by the time your key is in the lock your four-legged friend is excited up and ready to greet you!

Keep up to date with our educational, weekly blog and check back in next week!

 A range of canine supplements including Glucosamine for Dogs are available from Scientific Nutritional Products. For more information or to receive one-to-one advice specific to your dog contact our nutritional specialist Peter Fishpool on Tel: 01377 254900 or visit

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