Daylight Saving Time

Changing clocks affects our dogs.

     Eastern Standard Time (turning the clocks back) started a few days ago. In the past four days, the dogs woke me an hour earlier than they did last week. They’re also demanding their breakfast and dinner an hour earlier. Could I withstand the pressure and ignore them? Maybe the feeding part, but definitely not the “Get up! It’s time to let us out!!!” part.

     I suspect I am not the only pet owners who rues the time change. Dogs thrive on consistency. They don’t watch clocks. Rather, like humans, dogs are impacted by circadian rhythms. We feel the impact of changing our clocks, but we ignore them until we get used to the time change. Dogs respond to sunlight and are creatures of habit, so if your usual feeding time was 7:00 am, your dog thinks it’s feeding time at 6:00 am.

     If, like me, your schedule is impacted by your dog’s internal clock, we do have a few options: One choice is to give in to our dogs’ schedule for the next five months. It means we will be getting up earlier, feeding them earlier, and hopefully going to bed an hour earlier so we’re not exhausted with less sleep We can look forward to March 13th next year, when we turn the clocks forward again and our dogs’ schedules can return to the old “normal.” Of course, if you have a job or children whose schedules are clock-driven rather than daylight driven, this is probably not an option.

     Our second option is to gradually adjust our dogs to a new schedule in five or ten minute increments. The problem with this approach is that some dogs won’t adjust. Rather they’ll pester you for an additional 10 minutes. Then when you do feed your dog, you’re unintentionally reinforcing your dog’s persistence. Not a good result.

     And the final option, probably the one that works best—at least with adjusting your dog’s feeding time—is to engage your dog in an activity such as going for a walk, finding treats from a Snuffle Mat or puzzle toy, engaging in a training session for 10 minutes or so, and then feeding at the “new” clock time. Unfortunately, that won’t work with dogs that, like mine, wake you up at a usual time to go out.

     In recent years there has been a movement toward eliminating DST and making it Standard Time. The Federal Sunshine Protection Act of 2021 would make DST the permanent time. Studies have shown a lot of benefits, including fewer car accidents at prime driving times, less use of electricity and other benefits. This act would do away with the falling back time period we just experienced, making our afternoons brighter longer, I’m all for that … and so are my dogs!

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