Twice a year, most Americans will experience the gain or loss of one hour’s sleep when their clocks fall back or skip ahead for Daylight Saving Time. Many of us will adjust by sleeping in, drinking a second cup of strong coffee, and changing the time on our clocks and watches.
Although our dogs don’t understand the time change, they will need to spring ahead with their humans and accommodate a new routine. How does this affect them? And how can we make it easier for our dogs to adjust?
Concept of Time
We know our dogs are focused on the here and now but do they also understand the concept of time? Most researchers who study dogs do not believe they grasp the concept, but they do perceive the passage of time and will definitely let you know when it’s time for them to eat.
Dogs, like many other animals, are attuned to a circadian rhythm that acts as an internal clock.
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences explains that circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. They affect most living beings, including our dogs, plants, and even microbes.
“Dogs respond to daylight, and they wake when the sun rises and sleep when it’s dark,” says Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer for the AKC. “Do they count down the hours to make sure they get eight hours of sleep? Of course not. But their physical and behavioral processes are in sync with the sun.”
So, when Daylight Saving Time begins and you suddenly change the clock and decide to feed your dog and take him out on a new schedule, you can’t expect him to make an immediate adjustment.
Creatures of Habit
Dogs are creatures of habit. My dog is never happier than when following the same routine – for getting up, walks, meals, and bedtime – day after day. Routine and consistency mean stability and confidence for our pals. Setting up a reliable schedule for your pup as soon as you bring him home helps him understand what’s expected of him as part of your family.
Suddenly setting back or moving forward our clocks in the fall and spring can unsettle and confuse our dogs because from one day to the next we’ve made a change in their routines. You might want your dog to get up one hour earlier, and walk and eat on a new schedule. Some dogs may become anxious, have nervous stomachs, or have potty accidents in the house.
Ease Into the Change
You can make the time change easier for your dog by easing him into the adjusted schedule. During the week prior to the time change, gradually shift your dog’s schedule for eating, walking, and bedtime. This will make Daylight Saving Time less stressful for you both.
Don’t worry. Ease yourself and your buddy into the change. And remember: You get to do it all again but in reverse.