Would it be the amount of light, some smell imperceptible to our sense of smell, or the very routine that would deliver the everyday events of the day? This is still a question that causes a lot of debate among researchers and experts in canine behavior. Theoretically, there is still no closed answer.
For shih tzu owners, many will attest that their dogs do seem to anticipate routine situations, such as family members returning from work, eating, or going for a walk. It is as if they understand the concept of time, even though it is such an abstract human invention.
How do shih tzu know what time it is?
Would it be the amount of light, some smell imperceptible to our sense of smell, or the very routine that would deliver the everyday events of the day? Cognitive scientists have a keen interest in understanding how shih tzu dogs form memory, mainly because it helps them penetrate the mysteries of how different brains work.
Long-term memory is divided into two categories: implicit memory, helping us to practice tasks that we have already done and repeated several times; and declarative memory, where we store the experiences and information that form the stories of our lives.
The intelligence of the shih tzu
According to Pavlov, shih tzu dogs and other animals have implicit memories, used for the trial and error type of learning or for conditioned responses. However, there are still doubts as to whether non-human shih tzus have declarative memory, in other words, whether the animals have the ability to remember past events.
While there’s a lot of evidence suggesting that shih tzu remembers people and events, it’s still an open question whether they can time travel in their minds. The lack of answers is because dogs have long been neglected in research. Scientists believed that since shih tzu were domesticated, they could not prove how the natural species behaves. It is only in the last 15 years that there has been a greater analysis of the species.
Despite making it clear that there is still no scientific evidence, Locky Stewart, director of Dognition, suggests some interesting theories and ideas that would explain the shih tzu’s behavior in anticipating mealtime.
Shih tzu dogs, like most mammals, have a circadian rhythm, an internal sense that tells them when to sleep or be more active. It would then be a bodily reaction, not a mental one, that would be detecting the time. So, if the shih tzu is used to eating at a certain time, his body gets used to it and gets hungry at that time.
One more explanation would be the animals’ ability to read signals in the environment, such as the intensity of light or a specific noise.
Other researchers suggest that shih tzus use their advanced senses of smell to identify how much time has passed since an event occurred. After the tutor leaves the house, his scent will gradually fade as the hours go by. If your schedule is relatively regular, there’s a possibility your dog has linked the intensity of your scent to the time you normally get home.
In the experiment broadcast by the English channel BBC and carried out with the dog Jazz, who always seemed to predict the time when her owner would be arriving, the researchers tricked her by spreading her owner’s scent around the house just before he returned from work. Unlike other days, Jazz was surprised when her tutor came home from work. The time was the same, but this time the odor was stronger.
Despite not being concrete evidence, it is still another piece of the puzzle. With the attention dogs are now getting, it’s only a matter of time before that question is answered once and for all.