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Natural World

Can dogs smell the passage of time ?

December 9, 2019 | Comment icon 12 comments

How can dogs tell how long you've been away ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Thomas Vaclavek
Some dogs seem to have the uncanny ability to know exactly when their owner is returning home, but how ?
Do you have a dog that always seems to be waiting excitedly at the door for you, as if it had precise knowledge of exactly when you would be returning home ?

Such stories are certainly nothing new - there have been thousands of anecdotal cases where a dog has exhibited the uncanny ability to determine when someone will be at a certain place.

In one famous case, a dog named Hachiko would accompany his master Dr. Eisaburo Ueno of Tokyo University to the train station every day to see him off. The faithful canine would then leave the station before returning at the exact same time every day to meet him coming off the train after finishing work.

The story goes that when Dr. Ueno died in Tokyo, Hachiko would continue to arrive at the station and wait at the same time every day for the next ten years in the hope that his master would show up.

So how did the dog know when and where to wait ?
The answer, according to psychologist Alexandra Horowitz from New York's Barnard College, lies in the fact that dogs may be able to 'smell' the change in time through the strength of a person's scent.

Some dogs, she argues, can follow a scent trail by tracking it from its weakest to strongest point given that a fresher smell is typically stronger and thus more recent, chronologically speaking.

When a person leaves the house, their scent will gradually become weaker, potentially giving the dog a perceptible measurement of how long they've been away.

In the case of Hachiko, Dr. Ueno's faithful dog may have come to associate a certain strength of his master's scent at the station with the exact time of his train's arrival.

After Dr. Ueno's death, the dog may have simply relied on his memory of other scents at the station to return at the same time every day long after his master's own scent had disappeared.

Source: Psychology Today | Comments (12)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #3 Posted by Desertrat56 3 years ago
Dogs do have a sense of time.  And I don't think smell has anything to do with the dog arriving at the train statiion when the owner returns.  I had a dog who knew when I was coming home, and it wasn't smell because he would go to the door 5 minutes before my car pulled in to the driveway and once my friend was visiting and I went to rent a van and he did the same thing even though I was not in my own car and the timing had nothing to do with my regular schedule.  Something else is involved that most people ignore or will not accept.
Comment icon #4 Posted by The Eternal Flame 3 years ago
I agree totally something else is involved.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Nnicolette 3 years ago
This article is just plain idiotic! They think dogs can't tell what time of day it is? This hardly relates to smell. I know what time it is when i get up because there are shifts in traffic, daylight etc that cue me thats it time to get my son to school. I am sure other than daylight it is easy for a dog to know when someone will be there based on cues... Especially when they come at the same time every day! Especially especially at a train station with a regular schedule. Give me a break...   Also i agree with desertrat, people dont accept yet that thoughts and relationships are energy manife... [More]
Comment icon #6 Posted by DanL 3 years ago
My dogs always go to the door and sit when my wife is about to come home. I had assumed that it was just that they were somehow aware of what time she should be getting home until they went to the door one day in the middle of the day. My wife had got off work early and was coming home three hours earlier than normal. Not a clue as to how they knew. I didn't even know so they didn't pick it up from me.
Comment icon #7 Posted by openozy 3 years ago
It's just that dogs have not been deprogrammed to their senses like most humans.We notice this in dogs as they are close to us but I believe the more simple the lifeform,the more aware it is to its surroundings and intuition.I had a pitbull that knew when my partner was having a seizure,whether in the home,10km away or one time interstate.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Golden Duck 3 years ago
Dogs have a richer sense of smell.  You might recognise the smell of a baked cake.  Dogs will recognise the ingredients.   I couldn't discount the effect of sunlight on environment and that various odours that would generate.  There are chemical reactions triggered by sunlight in the environment. Still it just cues as you mentioned.
Comment icon #9 Posted by psyche101 3 years ago
It's just Sheldrakes crap rehashed isn't it? @ChrLzs did a thread in the book I think.  Wierd how woo proponents continue to attempt to prop up failed theories.
Comment icon #10 Posted by psyche101 3 years ago
I can smell the passage of time. If my dog takes a dump inside while I'm at work I can smell it when I walk in the door.
Comment icon #11 Posted by llegendary 3 years ago
I can do this. Somehow I know with my family is coming home and when they are close. It's almost like I hear the car, but there's no way that's possible.
Comment icon #12 Posted by woopypooky 3 years ago
I'm pretty sure dogs can hear up to 1 km away, the sound of tyre and engine of a car that belong to the family.

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