Achieving Balance and Harmony

DOG BEHAVIOR

Spring ahead, fall bark: The end of daylight saving time and your dog

By Michael Barmish

On the first Sunday in November at 2 a.m., daylight saving time comes to an end. We turn our clocks back one hour, thus enjoying the longest weekend of the year. What does this mean, other than causing confusion?

For most of us, it usually gives us an extra hour in bed, an extra hour before we plant ourselves in front of the TV for a Sunday afternoon of football games, or, for those who forget to set their clocks, an hour to wonder why it suddenly got so dark so early.

One way or another, we know something’s up with the clock and time of day. But what about your dog? There’s no turning his clock back. Unless he has an amazing talent, he can’t even read a clock. Unlike the rest of us, he doesn’t ponder why we go through this ritual every year. Dogs just know something is different. Unless, of course, it’s a dog that lives in Hawaii or Arizona, states that don’t observe daylight saving time.

That one hour does take a psychological toll on dogs. As we know, they are creatures of habit with a biological clock, or circadian rhythm which, according to Wikipedia “is present in the sleeping and feeding patterns of animals, including human beings” and is determined by natural sunlight.

So, if you take your dog for a walk every day at 7 a.m., come 6 a.m. on Sunday morning, don’t be surprised when Rover is sitting at your bed, staring you down with the leash in his mouth. Or, if you usually feed him the same time every day, you might expect a little confusion when his bowl sits empty at what he perceives is his usual feeding time. Okay, confusion may not be the right word. More like, anxiety.

Dogs may also get stressed out when you come home from work in the dark when they are so used to it being light out upon your return. Other than asking your boss to leave early, and good luck with that, there is not much you can do to change when you come home.

However, you can ease your dog into these other changes by slowly altering walking and feeding schedules, playtime, and so on, until the routines are back on schedule. The best time to start is now, a couple of weeks ahead of the change, delaying regularly scheduled events by a few minutes each day. By the time of the changeover, your dog will already be used to the new routine.

The effects of the sudden time change can last for a few days or up to a few weeks. So a little extra attention and understanding now can go a long way in getting your dog back on the time track.

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