Dog’s Eye View: What time is it anyway?
March 16, 2018
Have you noticed that your dog hasn't received the memo about daylight savings time? We're throwing their everyday schedule out the window without sitting down and explaining to them why dinner is an hour early. My dogs are reveling in my supposed mistake and act surprised at my efficiency with delivering dinner ahead of schedule. Then they act like they're in trouble when it's time to go to bed in the daylight.
But wait, walkies are off schedule, the kids are getting up in the dark, and we're going to bed early. What's with that? It's not just that the clock is set to our new time schedule, but that we're messing with circadian rhythms.
What is that? According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, "Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. They respond primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. Sleeping at night and being awake during the day is an example of a light-related circadian rhythm.
Circadian rhythms can influence sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, eating habits and digestion, body temperature and other important bodily functions. Biological clocks that run fast or slow can result in disrupted or abnormal circadian rhythms. Irregular rhythms have been linked to various chronic health conditions, such as sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder.
Circadian rhythms help determine our sleep patterns. The body's master clock, or suprachiasmatic nucleus, controls the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. It receives information about incoming light from the optic nerves, which relay information from the eyes to the brain. When there is less light, the SCN tells the brain to make more melatonin so you get drowsy. Researchers are studying how shift work as well as exposure to light from mobile devices during the night may alter circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles. Circadian rhythms help determine our sleep patterns.
Don't you just love a good science lecture? Our dogs respond to their circadian rhythms just like we do. What they notice from us, not having received the memo, is that we are not as reliable as we were just last week. So, if it takes you several days to get used to the time change, have some sympathy for your canine buddy. He doesn't understand why you are so ahead of schedule with the morning walk and putting him to bed during the day.
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A question I hear quite often is how can my puppy sleep in his kennel through the night but needs to go do his business every hour on the hour during the day? Why can't I leave him for that long during the day? Well, now you have the answer! It's circadian rhythms.
Be patient with your canine buddy bugging you to stick with last weeks' schedule. He, as well as we, will adjust within several days of this clock change. For my fellow insomniacs? You might give up the computer and TV a few hours before going to bed.
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with more than 30 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants as well as is a certified nose work instructor through the National Association of Canine Scent Work. Tyler owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado.