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Dogs And The Time Change

Setting clocks back creates challenges

By Karen B. London PhD, November 2018

dog and man at lake

Millions of people enjoyed an extra hour of sleep this weekend courtesy of the switch from daylight savings time to standard time. In my state of Arizona, only people who live on the Navajo Nation fall back an hour, and nobody in Hawaii does, but most of the country observes this semi-annual clock-changing ritual. Even if you are in that majority, it may have been irrelevant as a dog guardian. That extra hour of sleep is a human construct and a lot of dogs are having no part of it. Their circadian rhythms override our clocks and most of them probably got up at the crack of dawn as usual, ready to start the day.

Similarly, dogs are not generally keen on waiting an extra hour—morning or evening—to be fed just because of some time-changing policy that we have no way to communicate to them. A photo of two dogs making the rounds on social media illustrates the canine point of view well. One dog says, “Ok. Explain it again. It feels like five o’clock dinner time but it’s really four o’clock?” The second dog simply says, “This is bulls***!”

It can be helpful to dogs to meet them in the middle as they adjust to the time change. If you can break up the hour difference and only adjust their schedule—walks, feeding time, bedtime and waking up—by 15-30 minutes each day, it may be easier for them. Of course, if your schedule does not allow that kind of flexibility or you find that your dog gets in line with the new daily rhythm within a few days anyway, it may not be worth the extra effort. For the rare dog who struggles for a long time with the time change, breaking up the hour into smaller pieces for a more gradual adjustment can be a great kindness.

How does your dog respond when you change your clocks?

Photo: iStock

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life