Do Dogs Have An Internal Clock?

Have you ever noticed how dogs seem to have an uncanny ability to tell time?  It’s funny how they just seem to know what time every day certain things are going to happen.  There are many different theories about why this happens, but the truth is no one really knows for sure how it happens. The debate goes on about whether it’s simply because they get used to a routine, have a built-in circadian rhythm, or even some sort of sixth sense.  Perhaps they are reacting to the stimuli of the environment?  Do dogs really have some sort of internal clock?

At least in my house it seems my two dogs definitely have a pretty accurate built-in clock.  They wake me up every morning between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. and expect to have their breakfast right away.

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By 8:00 a.m. they are looking out the living room windows watching for the neighbor’s cat because every morning that cat will sit on top of the fence and tease them.  I think it’s become quite the game that they are getting used to.  The cat isn’t bothered in the least when my dogs are barking at him and going berserk, he just sits there calmly and he’s probably thinking “nah, nah, you can’t get me!”

 

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I let them go out and run in the backyard until they feel like they’ve done their job of scaring the cat away, although the cat knows perfectly well they can’t get to him when he’s up on that six-foot-high block wall fence, so he takes his sweet time jumping off and going back into his own yard.

After that ordeal is over they are usually ready to come back inside and take a nap while I work on the computer for awhile.  But by 11:00 a.m. they start pestering me to take them for a walk.  If we don’t go walking by 11 they get very restless and start bugging me so I can’t get any more work done.

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Who can resist those doggy eyes pleading with you.  And maybe they know it’s time for “mom” to take a break.  After all, working in front of the computer for too long isn’t good for a person anyway, and they know I can use the exercise just as much as they do.  That’s why I call them my little personal trainers.

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After a good, brisk 45-minute walk, where Cash has had to stop and pee on every garbage can and bush along the way, it’s time to come home and chill while mom has lunch.  Then it’s time for a good, long afternoon nap.  After all, dogs know how important sleep is, right?

 

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My boys love to sleep all snuggled down and covered up with a soft, fluffy throw.  Afternoons are great for napping several hours at a time.

And after a great nap they love to go outside and play.  Sometimes they just like to play tag and chase each other around the yard, and other times there are toys involved.

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I’ll bet your dog has a favorite toy, just like mine do.  Cash has several favorites, but most of his toys are the kind without stuffing.  That’s because he’s demolished every toy he’s ever had that came with stuffing.  Even the stuffing-less ones sometimes get their eyes, ears or tails chewed off.  But his favorite game is tug o’ war.  He can play that for hours until he’s completely exhausted.

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We usually play tug o’ war with his stuffing-less toys though, because when the rope tugs like the one in the picture, he ends up ripping them apart as well.  He will meticulously pull each string apart and I don’t want him getting an intestinal blockage from all those strings, so we avoid this type of toy any more.

In the evening comes the time when I’m most convinced they have a built-in clock.  Suppertime!  They eat every night at 7:00 p.m. and if I’m even five minutes late, they definitely let me know.  I guess I can’t blame them, though.  I love my suppertime too and can get cranky if it’s late.

Finally, every night at 10:30 p.m. they get a “cookie.”  That’s another time when I don’t dare be late.

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So what do you think?  Do dogs have a built-in clock or are they just creatures of habit?  Seems to me that their internal clocks can be pretty accurate.  The only thing that throws them off is Daylight Savings time.  But that’s why I’m glad I live in Arizona, we don’t have to set our clocks here like everyone else does.

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11 thoughts on “Do Dogs Have An Internal Clock?

  • March 9, 2017 at 6:15 pm
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    I have a dog and he does the same! It is like most of the times he is the one waking me up rather than my alarm clock. He has a routine and sticks to it no matter what. If I don’t play with them at their set time then they start pulling my clothes and pushing me outside so that they can play fetch. This is indeed relatable.

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    • March 10, 2017 at 2:49 am
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      It’s so funny how they each develop their own habits, likes and dislikes. Dogs can be quite the little characters!

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  • March 9, 2017 at 6:44 pm
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    Well, I don’t have a dog, but I have a Siamese. He acts just like a dog. I’ve been told that half an hour before I pull my car into the driveway at any time, he comes into the living room and sits on top of the aquarium hood opposite the front door to wait for me to walk in. It doesn’t stop there. I also have to take him for his walk around the neighborhood 3 times a day in the Summer at very specific times and he won’t stop bugging me until I do. I put his harness and leash on him and we’re off to greet the neighborhood.

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    • March 10, 2017 at 2:48 am
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      I believe cats have specific habits too. It’s not that usual to see someone out walking a cat, but I did have a neighbor who walked her cat every day. I just couldn’t take my dogs outside at the same time or all hell would have broke loose.

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  • March 9, 2017 at 6:51 pm
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    Hello Carol, good post! I think dogs are creatures of habit personally. Our dog Isabelle knows when to do what, but thats because we do the same stuff over and over. When she needs to go out, she comes up to me or my wife and stares at us. We say “doodles” and she knows to go out. When we get pizza, she knows she will get crust from me so she comes up to me and asks for some. Things like that lead me to believe she is just following our lead. She is very smart, as are most dogs I think. Enjoyed your post!

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  • March 9, 2017 at 6:54 pm
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    I couldn’t agree with you more! Their internal clocks are pretty accurate. They obviously can’t tell time like we can, yet they some how know more or less what time it is. My dogs get up at about the same time looking for attention and their belly rubs. If I’m a little behind schedule in feeding them, they give me a little nudge. Perhaps it can be said that they are just hungry, but it is honestly around the exact same time I try to feed them on a daily basis. Or, how they look out the window at about the same time waiting for their “dad” to get home.

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    • March 10, 2017 at 2:46 am
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      Funny how they know these things, like what time family members get home every day. Dogs are truly amazing creatures.

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  • March 9, 2017 at 6:56 pm
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    Carol great article! I love the topic and yes, I believe they do have internal clock. I believe they establish this internal clock when they like in a structured and happy home. In my opinion, dogs love simple, and they love routine and I believe this helps them establish that internal clock.

    My youngest English Bulldog, Oliver, has a great internal clock but when the routine is broken, he tends to retreat to the safety and comfort of his kennel.

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    • March 10, 2017 at 2:45 am
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      Hi Robert, Glad you enjoyed it. Yeah dogs are quite the creatures of habit aren’t they? Nothing better upset their routine!

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  • March 9, 2017 at 7:13 pm
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    Hi Carol I have to agree with you – dogs certainly have some kind of clock going on. We only have one dog now but she also is used to certain things being done at a certain time. It starts in the morning. If I get up a bit early she will lay in bed until 6:30 and then she will get up and join me. First thing she wants before even going out is a cookie.
    After her cookie and her outing she is good until around 8 a.m. then it is time for her walk. For some reason she does not like to poop in the backyard so she needs to go for a walk to relieve herself. Do you think she does that so we won’t skip walking her?
    Her next trigger is supper time. She just hates it if we eat later than normal since she doesn’t eat until after us.
    Her next thing she absolutely hates. I also have a cockatiel who we had before the dog. The dog looks at the bird as prey so they can not be out loose together. We put the dog in her crate for a couple of hours in order for the bird to come out. The dog has started to go outside just before this. That’s OK with us as the weather is much warmer now. But how does she know when that is going to happen?
    They certainly do have some kind of clock!
    .

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    • March 10, 2017 at 2:43 am
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      Hi Maureen, Isn’t amazing how each dog has their own unique personality and way of doing things? One of my dogs would rather poop while out walking too instead of going in the back yard. They definitely love their walks.

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