If you’ve ever had an overly excited dog greet you at the door even though you were only gone for, like, 15 minutes, you may start to wonder: “how does time pass for dogs?” We’re here to answer that as accurately as possible!
A day for a dog, according to our human calculations, would be 3 hours and 27 minutes. So a 24-hour day for us would be 7 full days for a dog.
The best way to understand it would be to make a well-known comparison of how every human year is 7 dog years. This is also the case with hours! 1 hour for us is 7 hours for them. So, a day will last approximately 3.5 hours.
No wonder dogs are happy to see us when we get home from work… we’ve been gone for days — literally!
How long is a year for a dog?
You may know the rule that your vet told you: 1 human year is equivalent to 7 dog years. Most will tell you this as far as understanding how dog aging works. This is definitely true, though it does depend on the breed. However, a year for us will also feel like 7 years for your dog as far as time passing.
How long is a month for a dog?
It’s pretty strange to think about all of that time speeding by so quickly for a dog, but it’s true! For example, we all know what a month feels like. It’s between 28-31 days, depending. For a dog, though, a month is going to “pass” every 4-5 human days.
How long is one hour for a dog?
So, let’s take it down a little bit more, then. How long would an hour be for a dog? We know that an hour for humans is going to feel like 7 hours for a dog. So, a dog hour will pass every 8.5 minutes!
How long is one minute for a dog?
Ready to take it down to the smallest timing? A minute for us is 60 seconds. This means that a dog minute is going to be 8.5 seconds.
How to properly change human time to dog time
As you can see, the basic theory is that there is a ratio of 1:7 with humans:dogs. 1 minute is 7 minutes, 1 hour is 7 hours, 1 day is 7 days, and so on. That being said, this is approximate at best. Since we can’t exactly get a dog’s point of view, a lot of understanding how to tell time for dogs is watching how they perceive time through the behaviors that we can measure! We’ll talk about this in the next section.
Suppose you’re looking at understanding dog timing. In that case, it’s important to use this as a guide rather than a strict to-the-second literal clock. Every dog is a little different, too, just like humans.
How do dogs perceive time?
The actual science behind a dog’s understanding of time comes from a less linear time frame. It’s called a circadian rhythm, and it means basing their knowledge of time based on their needs, physically speaking.
Their way of understanding how time passes will be about their physical needs rather than the difference between 2:30 and 2:35 like we do, as humans. Their concept of time is a lot more fluid than a human’s understanding because time, itself, means nothing. They just associate different rhythms over time.
Confused? Let’s take a look at an example. If you are gone for half an hour versus 3 hours, your dog will be especially relieved to see you after 3 hours. They understand that you’ve been gone for a while, and they’re glad you’re home. They’ll be excited to see you after you’ve been gone for half an hour, too, but less so than 3 hours.
However, when you look at a dog’s excitement from 2 hours to 3 hours or 3 hours to 4 hours, there is no noticeable difference. A dog understands the differences from half an hour to 3 hours, but not from something small such as half an hour to 1 hour.
Other ways dogs use to understand the passage of time are
- Pattern and schedule
- The behavior of humans and other animals
Pattern and schedule
Since your dog has spent many years with you (perhaps even more than you thought), he understands your schedule. He understands when you go to work, when he eats, and when his bathroom breaks can be expected. This factors into the circadian rhythm that we talked about earlier. Once your dog is used to the schedule, he’ll change his concept of time to match it!
The behavior of humans and other animals
Dogs will spend a lot of time watching humans and other animals in the household. This is, in part, because they love being part of the pack, but also because it factors into time. If they are used to getting supper at 5:00, but the other animals make the switch to 6:00, your dog will, too, once they adjust initially. They won’t continue to demand their supper at 5:00 because that’s how it used to be. The shift will take a bit of adjustment, but it’ll happen!
What else should I understand about dog time telling?
As a responsible pet parent, there are a few details that you can keep in mind to help make the most of it!:
- Cause and effect doesn’t make sense for dogs
- A change in schedule will confuse your dog for a while
- Aging parameters are different
Cause and effect doesn’t make sense for dogs
Because an hour is less than 10 minutes long for a day, he doesn’t connect cause and effect very well because he’s physically incapable of doing it.
For example, getting upset with your dog because he snapped at another animal, or ate something off your plate, makes sense only if you catch him in the act of it.
If you punish him for doing something after it’s happened — even if it’s mere minutes — he won’t understand why he’s being punished. He may know that the action is wrong, and that’s why sometimes dogs will act “guilty” if they’ve done something while you’re away. But they won’t understand why you are punishing them.
A change in schedule will confuse your dog for a while
Most pet parents have seen this when they take a sick day or enjoy a week off work for a stay-cation. Dogs are absolutely ecstatic because you’re home with them instead of being gone for, literally, days at a time! It’s an adorable detail, but one to take seriously, too.
If or when there is a schedule change, it may confuse your dog a lot, even when it comes to actions that aren’t directly impacted by this change. Any change in how time is passed in his household will confuse his natural rhythm as he figures out what it means for his needs (i.e., food, bathroom breaks, socialization, etc.).
Aging parameters are different
In this case, we’re talking about “terrible twos”, being teenagers, senior citizens, etc. This is something that pet parents know well, too.
This is usually breed-specific, though, as age and the dog’s lifespan will determine the age he is when he reaches each milestone. Your vet is a great person to ask if you have age-related questions!
Dogs have a different understanding of their passage of time. Still, it just means that we will cherish every moment even more than we already do!
To sum up
A dog’s day is, in human terms, 3 hours and 27 minutes long. Dogs have different understandings of time than humans do, biologically speaking, so their passage of time is also different.
Know someone who will find this as fascinating as you do? Share it with them and spread the love!