It might seem like your dog has an even better sense of time than you do. He always knows exactly when it's time to eat or when you should take him out for a walk. But is this just instinct, or does he have any concept of the passing of time? Does he remember the siblings born in his litter or yesterday's stroll at the park?
Until we have Dr. Doolittle to translate, we can't ask dogs about their earliest memories. However, animal cognition researchers like William Roberts have performed experiments that give us an idea of how animal memories work. Roberts found that animals live in the present, and that basically, they're stuck in time. While humans have the capability of "mental time travel," thinking forward and backward in time, dogs do not [source: Roberts].
Studies show that dogs, rodents and birds can all learn new behaviors but won't remember studying them, much like humans begin to walk as talk as babies but don't remember how they learned to do so. Animals are not capable of remembering past events. For example, say you and your dog ventured out to the beach on a sun-drenched day and you taught her to fetch. The next day, researchers say, your dog would know how to fetch, but those golden memories would all be in your head -- not hers [source: Roberts].
While dogs may not have memory or understand time in the sense that humans do, they do react to circadian oscillators, or daily fluctuations in their biological state. These supply them with the instincts to know when their trusted owner should be opening that next can of food or picking up the leash.
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