Can Dogs Tell Time? (Because They Always Know Dinner Time)

Can dogs tell time? Well, they always know when it's dinner time or walkies time, don't they?

They can show this in many ways such as picking up their leash and waiting by your feet to go on an adventure.

Or hovering around their food bowl and yelping whilst looking at you lovingly with those puppy dog eyes, 

Ever noticed your dog waiting by the window when you’re coming home from work? It’s as if they know exactly what time you will arrive.

Time. We mentioned it four times in that first paragraph alone. You know the concept of time but can dogs really understand it too?

Judging by their behavior, you would think so. It may not be as simple as that, however. 

So to answer if dogs can really tell the time, we need to understand the following...

DISCLOSURE: is reader supported so if you buy any products featured on this site I may earn an affiliate commission (at no extra cost to yourself). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 
You can read my full disclosure here.

How do we see time?

Time is something we take for granted every day. It’s always here and there’s never enough of it!

Scientifically, time is the continued progress of existence, be it past, present, or future.

It is based on our Earth’s movements. We measure it in seconds, minutes, and hours tracking the sun’s journey across our sky to measure a full day.

Thankfully, we have watches and clocks these days to save us the effort of wondering what time it is by the sun’s point in the sky.

As we are the only beings who do this (that we know of), it can be difficult to understand other animal’s concept of time, including dogs.

Can dogs tell time?

Experts believe dogs can tell the time but not as we know it.

Scientists and behavioral experts have no definitive answer for this as there is no absolute evidence to prove they can or they can’t.

There have been some studies made with fascinating observations that have given us some interesting theories.

Try to get the idea of minutes and hours out of your head when thinking about time. Hard right? Well, this is how many believe dogs think about time.

There is evidence that there isn’t one uninterrupted timeline in a dog’s mind. 

Can Dogs Tell Time?

Different ways dogs tell time

One experiment, based in Sweden, wanted to see if dogs could comprehend different periods of time between short and long phases.

Basing their experiment on the excitement shown by dogs after seeing their owners after some time apart, they came up with intriguing results.

Each owner increased the period away from their dog each time and researchers concluded that the dogs could tell the difference between shorter and longer periods of time.

This was because the dogs were more excited at seeing their owners after 2 hours apart as opposed to only 20 or 30 minutes.

This suggests that dogs can differentiate between short and long times but more specific timekeeping is not in their capabilities.

Cognitive abilities

There is evidence that dogs can determine time through their cognitive abilities. By recognizing patterns, they may be able to make observations and associate circumstances with time.

Dogs can recognize sounds that happen often and associate them with an occurrence. One example is when your alarm clock goes off in the morning.

Just like you know it's time to get up, after some routine, your dog will know the same (and that it’s time for a tasty breakfast!). 

Another example is the car engine turning off in your driveway. If this happens at a similar time every day, your dog will associate it with you being home and playtime.

Some experts believe dogs can tell the time based on the level of light or darkness outside.

This is a skill they learn through a repetitive process along with seeing the position of shadows and knowing what time of day it may be.


Dog’s senses are far better than humans, including their sense of smell. It is believed that dogs can associate different smells with certain times.

Throughout the day, hot air rises while cold air sinks so odors move along with this airflow.

If a dog is sitting in the house throughout the day, their sensitive noses may pick up the changing odors as the hours pass.

Owners all have their own scent too. Dogs will recognize this scent straight away. Once their owner leaves the house, the scent will linger but slowly disappear.

It is thought that dogs may learn that once the scent has faded to a certain level, it is time for their owner to come home.

Again, this is through repetition and experience. We don’t recommend you trying to tell the time by someone’s odor, however!

Circadian Rhythm

Just like us, dogs have a circadian rhythm. Think of it as an internal clock that tells us when we need to rest, sleep, or be on high alert.

Dogs are similar to us as they are awake during sunlight hours and sleep throughout the night.

Of course, most dogs take naps during the days but nighttime sleep is a lot longer. This is because of their circadian rhythm.

Some experts believe this circadian rhythm tells a dog when they need to play, relax, and eat.

Environmental factors such as temperature may affect a dog’s circadian rhythm so their instincts take over and combine with the day’s activities to show them what time it is. 


There needs to be a lot more research into this matter to get a definitive answer. For dogs, actions speak much louder than words and clocks.

It’s highly unlikely they know the exact time as “12 o’clock” but evidence shows they have their own unique way of knowing what time it is.