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A Dog's Perspective on Time

Another year has flown by and it’s hard to believe that we are now almost a week into 2018. The ratio of a dog’s life span compared to a human’s life span often has us humans equating dogs annually aging in increments of seven years. If 2017 flew by so quickly for me, I wonder what dogs perceive?

Using this ratio logic has Kersey and me at about the same age! All the easier for me to feel empathy for her as I see her sometimes walking stiffly from arthritis. I also can understand how, when she goes for walks out in the woods, that those aging pains seem to magically disappear.

This seven-years-to-one-year formula has been around for a surprisingly long time. However, the reality is not so cut and dried. The American Veterinary Medical Association breaks down the aging comparison between dogs and humans more specifically. Fifteen human years equals the first year of a medium-sized dog’s life. Year two for a dog equals about nine years for a human. After that, each human year is approximately five for a dog. This calculation makes Kersey about three years younger than me!

As with humans, longevity in dogs can’t be simply calculated mathematically. Both environmental and genetic factors ultimately decide how long an animal lives. For example, larger breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans when they are compared to smaller breeds and are often considered ‘senior’ when they are 5-6 years of age.

The reality of how long dogs and people live is objective. Conversely, the perception of how fast this time passes is more subjective. Despite the usual 365 days (except leap years) to a year, doesn’t it seem like time passes more quickly the older we get?

Research explains this perceived speeding up of time to unfamiliar versus routine moments in our lives. It’s these unfamiliar moments that create substance to our time. As adults, our lives become more routine and we typically experience fewer unfamiliar moments. Also, many of our thoughts are reflecting on the past and perhaps worrying about the future.

In contrast to humans, dogs are renowned for “living in the moment.” The noise of the past or future doesn’t seem to interfere with enjoying each moment. I know for Kersey, she eats the same dry kibble meal twice daily with renewed enthusiasm as if it is her first meal ever!

Based on my research and observations, I propose that dogs don’t perceive time speeding up as they get older. I’m guessing that Kersey is going to savor and enjoy every moment of 2018 just as she did 2017. I feel that my responsibility, as her owner, is to give her lots of moments to enjoy.

Laura Pintane is a local dog trainer that wishes you and yours a Happy New Year!

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