If Dogs Have No Sense Of Time, How Do They Know When It’s Their Birthday?

If Dogs Have No Sense Of Time, How Do They Know When It’s Their Birthday?

My dog knows a lot of things. She knows when I’m cooking oatmeal, she knows the difference between the sound a bag of chips and a bag of kale, she knows to be extra careful with puppies and old people and she knows that when I ask for her “other paw” it means her right one.

But on the day of her 1st birthday when I asked “Do you know what day it is?!” she didn’t.


Where did I go wrong? I reminded her every day for weeks that this day was coming, yet she didn’t seem the least bit excited when it was actually here.

It turns out that dogs have no real concept of time. This might not be obvious, seeing how well they respond to routines and schedules, but a dog’s perception of time isn’t associated with memories the way a human’s is. Rather, they can tell time by how much of it has passed.


A study conducted by a group of Swedish scientists tested the behaviors and heart rates of dogs when being reunited with their owners after various stretches of time. None of the dogs in the study had any history of separation anxiety.


In the experiment, dogs showed no difference in behavior while alone for 30 minutes to 4 hours. However, once they were reunited, dogs left alone for longer stretches of time greeted their owners more intensely than those left alone for shorter.


Although dogs may not know exactly what or when their birthdays are, they can definitely tell how long it’s been without something once they’re reminded of it. Try hiding one of your dog’s favorite toys for a week, they’ll forget all about it until you give it to them again and they won’t understand how they’ve lived this long without it.

But maybe we’re the ones being fooled. After all, dogs have already had seven birthdays by the time their “first” one comes along, they may just be upset that we forgot about it six consecutive times. But I think I know a way you can make it up to them, because the best way for your dog to know it’s their birthday is for you to celebrate it for them. 🙂

Now you can celebrate your dog’s birthday seven times a year with the Happy Barkday Gift Box from BarkShop.


Featured image via @brovnikthegolden