Can dogs tell time? Yes, through their noses!

Can dogs tell time? Yes, through their noses!
Can dogs tell time? Yes, through their noses!

Last update: 06 June, 2018

There are many theories about how dogs understand time. Some say that dogs have no perception of time, while others believe that they feel alone the longer they are without the company of their owners. A new study claims that dogs can understand the passing of time through their nose.

Your dog is always sitting at the door when you arrive. It seems that he knows what time it is. Sometimes you will wake up seconds before your alarm goes off, but will you know what time it is before looking at the clock? Everything seems to indicate that the answer is yes. But let’s see if this is true.

Dogs know what time it is through their nose

Dry nose dog

If you live with more than one family member and you are sitting with your dog and waiting for another member of the family to come home, you can see how your dog will begin to get restless when the time of their arrival approaches. He seems to know what time it is.

You are right. He knows. According to scientists, every moment of the day has a different smell. And what is more, the snout of the dog can differentiate each second by by the air. So actually, instead of saying that dogs can know what time it is through their nose, we should say that dogs can smell time.

The nose of a dog has many more olfactory cells than a human’s nose. Thus, his olfactory sense is far superior to a human’s. In fact, thanks to his nose, he is able to detect cancer and other diseases even before his owner realizes that something is not right.

And not only do dogs have about 220 million scent cells, but they also have a wide variety of types of cells. Therefore, the information that dogs are able to capture is much more complex than what we sense.

In addition, a dog’s nostrils work in stereo. That is, each of its nostrils is independent of the other, so dogs have the ability to smell two different smells at the same time and assimilate them.

On the other hand, dogs enjoy olfactory memories. When they smell something, dogs are capable of memorizing the circumstances and the moment in which it happened. With this, they can connect the smells to a specific moment, and know where or when they came from.

How does time smell?

Dog sense time

During the day, rooms and places smell different over time. This happens because hot air tends to rise and soaks the walls with the smell, while the cold air that stays above replaces the hot air and changes the aroma of the room.

If we could see this process happening, we would also be able to tell time without looking at a clock.

Dogs are not able to see the process of air moving, but they can smell it. And they know how to recognize odors since a newer aroma, that is one that was produced recently, is more intense than an older one.

For this reason, on many occasions, before you cross the street towards your house, your dog is already on the balcony. This is because the breeze brings your smell towards the house along with the smell of the street, so your dog knows that it is time to greet you with a bark.

The truth is that little by little, we are learning more and more about man’s best friend. Dogs are so similar, and at the same time so different, from us that this type of curiosity about what is going on in a dog’s head can help us to coexist even better with our pets.

Now you know why your dog knows when you get home, even if you try not to make noise to surprise him, or why he wakes you up at a certain time in the morning.

Remember that although your dog knows what time it is, he always has the option of not moving. Usually, however, your dog wants to be right there to greet you, to lick you, to love you. Treat him the same way.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.