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Home Alone: What does your dog do while you are at work?

Some people are so curious that they start videotaping their pets while they are away. Unless you have a puppy that loves to chew and misbehave, most dogs spend their home alone time sleeping or playing with toys’. as far as you know’.

Leaving treats, toys or even turning the TV on while you are away can help to keep your dog stimulated throughout the day, but according to dog behaviorists, the most important thing you can for a dog at home alone is to stick to a daily routine.

A dog’s perceptions, its way of experiencing the world, is very different from humans including the way dogs experience time. As many dog owners know and appreciate, dogs live in the present. They are cognitively unable to think about time in terms of past memories or future events. Although they always seem to know when it’s time for bed, time for you to leave, time to eat, according to researchers, dogs experience time via internal biological rhythms that are triggered by routines. As creatures of habit, dogs have external cues that signal when they can expect a walk:’ putting on a certain pair of shoes = walking time. When a dog’s routine is disrupted or consistently irregular, it throws their entire sense of time off which causes them stress.

In a study published in the January 2011 issue of Applied Animal Behaviour Science, researchers confirmed that while a dog can’t keep track of time, they are affected by the duration of time they are left alone. This research confirmed that dogs who experience longer periods of time alone also display more intense greeting behavior and increased heart rate levels for the first two minutes that their owners are home.

With all this being said, the cognitive abilities of dogs has been relatively ignored until recently and research on the subject is limited. In the last decade, major advancements in terms of dog medicine, behavior and cognition have been made. Doggie Cognition Centers from Harvard University to the University of Florida have been established with the goal of understanding the how and why behind the actions of man’s best friend. Brian Hare of Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center in Durham, North Carolina, notes that studies have proved that dogs can actually read human behavior and gestures more than any other species. Can a dog really experience guilt or do we just think they look guilty? Expect more revelations on dog cognition in the coming years, including more education on how we can all become better companions and providers for our canine friends.

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