If you’re a dog owner, you probably have a lot of scheduled activities for your four-legged friend, such as bedtime, bath time, and dinnertime. But does your precious pet actually know what he or she is supposed to do at those moments without first being prompted by you? Recent research points to yes — especially when your doggo is ready to chow down.
An October 2018 study published in Nature Neuroscience examined the medial entorhinal cortex, which is an area in an animal’s brain linked to memory and navigation. When a team of researchers took a close look at this spot, they discovered a previously unknown set of neurons that apparently "turn on" whenever an animal is waiting for something to happen.
In the experiment, researchers had animals perform a series of tasks that required measuring time, which they did with relatively good accuracy. While the researchers say the implications of this study extend to pets in general, they specifically highlighted the implications for dogs — most likely because so many of us humans are dog owners or fans of pups. And let's be honest, sometimes we take a bit more time than usual while feeding our pets.
"Does your dog know that it took you twice as long to get its food as it took yesterday? There wasn't a good answer for that before," said lead researcher Daniel Dombeck, PhD, in a press release. "This is one of the most convincing experiments to show that animals really do have an explicit representation of time in their brains when they are challenged to measure a time interval.”
That means if you’ve ever felt like your fur baby was patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for you to fill up that food bowl, chances are that you were right. And if you’ve ever taken your sweet time getting your dog’s dinner ready, then there’s a strong likelihood your pup knew something was up.
Considering how hungry our pups look right before they eat, we can’t be too shocked that they can likely put two and two together about dinnertime. That said, it never fails to amaze us how smart dogs can be; after all, they have 19 gestures they use to communicate with us properly. On top of that, pups seem to know exactly how to comfort us when we’re feeling blue — arguably better than most humans.
We can’t think of a better reason to fill up our dogs' dishes on time tonight. It’s the least we can do for those little darlings!