Does time run slower for dogs?

Ahhh, our dogs — They are our companions when we’re on top of the mountain, and they are still by our sides when everyone else in the world has let us down. Over the years, I have pondered many things about my canine friend. I remember grappling with whether to dock Dega, my beloved American Pit Bull’s, tail, and I sure remember the hardest decision I ever made with her — whether to give her to my friend to live out in the country because I couldn’t take care of her adequately at the time.

I’ve wondered other things, too, though, simple things, like — Is she happy? Would she like it better if I rotated her diet? Does she like being bathed? Does she think I am a good mommy? I loved Dega, and I asked myself lots of, well, somewhat pertinent questions, but one I never thought to ask until someone asked me was — Does time run slower for dogs? I didn’t have an answer for them; so, I did some research, and here is what I found.

Does time run slower for dogs?

In a study found in a peer-reviewed journal called Animal Behavior, dogs were shown to perceive time 25% more slowly than humans do. Dogs are shown to have a higher CFF (critical flicker frequency) response time, so, to them, things seem to be happening more slowly. To your dog, you appear to be moving, at least somewhat, in slow motion.

Scientists have measured time perception in cycles or frames per second (fps) or hertz (Hz), and this measurement is called the frame rate. They found vast differentiation in perceptions between different animals. While humans have a time perception rate of 60 Hz, various animals have from as low as 15 Hz to as many as 250 Hz.

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The way it works is that the smaller an animal is (or the higher their metabolism), the higher their frame rate, and conversely, the larger the animal is (or the lower the metabolism), the lower their frame rate. To tiny animals like birds, we humans seem to move in ultra-slow motion, but to, say, turtles (with their low metabolism) or elephants that are so much larger than us, we seem to move in “fast-forward” motion. 

Your dog perceives time at a slightly higher rate than you do, at 70-80 Hz. It may not seem like a lot, but it’s enough to make their perception different from yours and make you move in slow motion. You won’t seem to move as slowly as you would to a mouse, but to them, you won’t be perceived to move normally, as one of their own species would.

Do dogs perceive time differently from humans?

Well, an hour is an hour — Isn’t it? In theory, yes, time is time, no matter for who or why, but how does each individual or species perceive that time? Do you perceive time differently from me? Do dogs perceive time differently from humans?

The answer is — Yes, though the same amount of time has passed, it was perceived differently for your dog than it was for you. The science is actually quite clear on the subject, and it shows that an hour to us, as humans, is perceived by our dogs as an hour and fifteen minutes or 75 minutes instead of 60 minutes.

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Of course, dogs have no concept of what time is. They only live in the here and now, not remembering what happened beforehand. While dogs do have working memories, they work differently than human memories. A dog might return to a farm where they used to live. They may feel happy because they can remember the feeling they once felt while being loved and well cared for there. Conversely, they may feel sad or even terrified because they can remember the feeling they felt while being neglected or abused there.

However, they don’t remember what they had for their last meal or where you took them in the car yesterday. In other words, they cannot, as humans can, imagine their lives as a movie on the big screen. Dogs just worry about what is currently happening.

Do dogs see in slow motion?

We talked about CFF. Well, again, yours is around 60 Hz and your dog’s is around 70-80 Hz. They see you in slow motion, but do they see everything in slow motion? The answer is — Yes, your dog sees the world around them in slow motion, at least compared to what you see, and so do most small animals, especially the ever-dreaded fly, unlike large animals and those with slow metabolisms, who see the world in “fast-forward” motion.

Why do you think it’s so hard to swat a fly? It’s because, to them, you are moving in slow motion, and they can see you coming a mile away. Why can’t you catch a bird? Birds perceive time at a frame rate of around 100 Hz. It’s the same reason that it always seems you are going to hit vultures, buzzards, and condors eating on the road, but you never do. They fly away just in the nick of time because they perceive your car as moving in slow motion.