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The Surprising Way Dogs Tell Time


We like to stay in the know when it comes to our dogs and cats – from studies on whether our pets love, to groundbreaking research on how well they understand our language — we find it all fascinating, and love to learn more and more about the creatures that bring us such joy. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re like us, and might be just as fascinated to learn about a recent discovery on our furry canines…

An article published on the website “Science of Us” suggests that dogs use their nose not just to track smells and hunt, but to mark the passing of time. How? We wondered the same thing.

To understand, let’s cover the basics. Canines rely on their noses to go about their lives. Every time they smell something (which is thousands and thousands of times a day), receptor cells in the nose transmit the information directly to the brain. “We do too,” states the article, “but dogs have hundred of millions more.” This explains why they can detect a trillionth of a gram of TNT, and are even used to sniff out cancer. Their noses are incredibly powerful, and they don’t need their eyes nearly as much as we do.

What you might not know, and what we didn’t know, was how the two nostrils work together and independently to understand and perceive information. Think of your eyes – they work seamlessly as a pair to see the world as a three-dimensional image, and yet when you lose the vision of one, your perception is greatly impaired.

So how do dogs smell time? Alexandra Horowitz, who recently published a book on her research (LINK), says it has to do with the air. Throughout the day, hot air rises – in a room it will rise along the wall and up to the ceiling – and as this happens, smells change. Dogs, Alexandra explains, may very well be able to tell the time of day by how the air smells. Similarly, a strong scent signifies something recent or current (think, bacon on the stove, or a fellow pup’s urination on the ground), while a faint odor signifies something in the past.

So why does your dog still leap with joy when you return from bringing out the garbage? That might just have more to do with how unconditionally lovable they are.

Read more on the topic: here. and here.

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