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Do dogs have a concept of time?

Dogs don't understand time in the same way humans do, but they do have some perception of time 'passing by' through events that directly affect them

Interestingly, dogs do seem to be able to sense time but perhaps not in the same way that humans understand the concept of it. A 2018 university study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience,  discovered that dogs may be able to judge time.

Dogs are all about the ‘here and now’

Whilst it often seems that dogs live their lives ‘in the moment’, they do have an internal body clock in the same way that humans do. They learn to understand the passage of time in accordance with routine. The 2018 study mentioned above found that specific neurons in an animal’s brain fire up ‘like a clock’ when they are waiting for something.

Can dogs detect when you’re going to arrive home?

Poppy the Lhasa Apso loves to greet me when I arrive home from work at the end of the day. Sometimes, she is reminded that I am due home. On most occasions, she seems to know instinctively that my arrival is imminent. Dogs cannot tell the time in the way that humans do.

It suggests an understanding and awareness of time through sights, sounds and smells of the immediate environment. It may also involve the activities of others, for example a child arriving home from school or the appearance of a regular visitor at the same time every day.

How we perceive time is a marvel of science

When talking about the perception of time, humans have inevitably adapted to the orderly rhythms of the universe. These biological cycles are called circadian rhythms which are essentially within all of us. They are built into the central nervous system.

Animals are also subject to Circadian activities. This includes the ability to sense the time of day. They may be able to detect change from daylight to darkness during each day. There are other examples including events that occur on a regular basis. 

How does your dog know what time it is?

Dogs may be able to tell what time it is by simple observation. They’ll keep tabs on their owners and the environment around them. Another theory about this particular aspect of a dog’s understanding is their extraordinary olfactory capability which may allow them to tell how long you have been out of the house by the diminishing strength of your scent. However, there isn’t any wide research to back up this possibility.

Do dogs understand the seasons of the year?

Poppy is now more than four years old and definitely does not like Winter even though she is a Lhasa Apso, a breed which originated in the mountains of Tibet.

Does my dog know instinctively that the cold, wet and stormy conditions of the current season will be replaced by the warmer weather of Spring, just around the corner? When Poppy and I go for a Winter walk and she shivers with cold even though wrapped in her warmest coat, I want to tell her that Spring is on the way and that she wont have to put up with the freezing weather for very much longer but does she already know that?


If you have an example of your dog showing good time keeping abilities then please share your stories with us. I believe that we have only scratched the surface when it comes to the amazing things that dogs can do. All of us at LhasaLife would love to hear from you.

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