Dogs and Daylight Savings Time
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
Daylight Savings Time has a way of bringing out some intense reactions from people. It seems that jumping an hour forward is not everyone’s favorite thing. Of course, tracking time by hours and days is entirely a man made concept and we don’t ever lose or gain time, but that one hour seems to mess with some humans for a long time.
For me personally, I love the start of daylight savings time! Maybe it remains from when I worked a 9-5 corporate job and the months when we left the office into total darkness were horribly depressing, or maybe it’s because I’m really not an early morning person, but I am definitely happier when our daylight lasts later into the night rather than starting earlier in the day. My favorite thing about Daylight Savings Time, though, is that it puts the dogs back onto our desired schedule.
Jackson and Tinkerbell follow a strict schedule and are more punctual than any dogs I’ve ever known. I call this Dog Time. It was not my plan to instill in them such a strict schedule since they are dogs and can live life without the burdens of tracking minutes and hours like humans. But, they picked it up on their own from our daily habits and have stuck to it every day since they were each young puppies.
Jackson was only a few months old when we realized that every night at 10:08 pm he would come and sit in front of us and stare and whine for his last potty break outside. Not 10:00, not 10:15, 10:08. Every. Single. Night.
“How on earth does he know what time it is?” we would marvel to each other.
When Tinkerbell joined the family she quickly learned Jackson’s existing schedule and became an even bigger task master, reminding me precisely when it was time to eat, time to go outside, time to go to bed. Tink’s method is more intense than Jax’s signature “sit, stare and whine” technique; she prefers “jump, trample and lick” when she wants to tell me it is time to do something.
Since Jackson came home to us in May 2011 and Tinkerbell in July 2013, both of them came home during Daylight Savings Time, and as a result their schedules were established on that timing, based on our human lifestyle. When we go off of Daylight Savings Time in the fall, the dog schedule and the human schedule no longer match.
If you’re wondering why one hour makes such a difference, it is because I adjust within a week. The dogs never do. Trust me, I’ve tried to get them to adjust. They won’t.
During Daylight Savings Time the dogs get me up at 6:30, literally like clockwork. This has always been the time I needed to be up since Jax was born, first when I was in the corporate world and now to make sure that the teenagers are up and out the door and nobody slept through an alarm. I myself don’t need an alarm anymore because I have my canine alarm clock.
When Daylight Savings Time is over, the dogs stay on their schedule and 6:30 becomes 5:30. You would think the dogs would adjust an hour eventually but they don’t. No matter what time they go out at night, no matter what I do to tell them to go lay down, no matter if I ignore them or make them wait an hour to try to get them to adjust, they will not.
Their morning wake up call goes like this: Jax sits as close to the bed as he can, completely upright, while he whines and nudges me with his nose, over and over. Tink is less subtle. She either lays entirely on top of me or leaps on me, trampling my internal organs. Sometimes they heed my “go lay down” commands and settle for the hour while I scoot to the inside of the bed and try to ignore them. Other days they will have none of it. If I lay facing the outside of the bed, Jax grows more persistent and will flip my arm into the air and increase the frequency and power behind his nose nudges and the volume of his whines. If I lay facing the inside of the bed, Tink follows me and wiggles wildly, licking my face and pawing insistently at my arm to rub her tummy.
It seems that Dog Time is like the state of Arizona, it never changes time and for those of us who do, we are perpetually out of synch with the ones who do not change. Don’t get me wrong, I never want to be without this doggie wake up service, I just want it to be an hour later, like it is on Daylight Savings Time.
It’s not just morning that stays on Dog Time when Daylight Savings Time ends, it is everything: lunch moves from noon to 11 am, puppy playtime from 4pm to 3pm, supper from 6:30 to 5:30. When I try to force the transition back to my time, and wait until the time on our human clock, they sit and stare at me, side by side, for the full time, periodic moans and groans of impatience coming from them both. They’ve learned the phrase “It’s not time yet” and will lay down with a grunt and an audible sigh, but still staring at me intently as if trying to will me to do what they want.
In trying to figure out how the dogs know what time it is, I did some research and learned that scientists just are not 100% certain how a dog knows that 10:08 pm is time for their last potty break of the night and bedtime. Some attribute their sense of time to their circadian rhythm, an internal sense that tells them when to sleep or when to be active. Some experts think that they use their noses and incredible sense of smell, especially for things like knowing when their owner will be home from work. According to that theory, the owner’s scent dissipates throughout the day and dogs know that when the scent is at a certain strength, their owner comes home.
No matter what the reason, Dog Time has become the primary reason that I am doing a happy dance when Daylight Savings Time begins each spring and friends of mine are complaining that it is too dark in the morning or that their sleep schedules are messed up. I do love the light at the end of the day rather than in the morning, and it is also an indicator that spring and summer are coming and that soon we will have more daylight hours than we do during winter, but more than anything, I love that my dogs and I are once again in-synch about when it’s time to start each day together.
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