It is that time of year when daylight savings time ends. We turn our clocks back on November 7, 2021 at 2 a.m. Not only are these changes upsetting to many of us, our dogs are affected too. So you may need to help your dog with daylight savings changes.
While we are excited for that extra hour of sleep on November 7, dog owners may lose out because once the sun rises, their dogs prepare to start the day. Their circadian rhythms (internal clock) is controlled by exposure to light. The sunlight, along with hunger, indicates it’s time to wake up. Many dog owners can attest to the fact that dogs don’t care if the clocks have changed or not. If you are reading this article, you likely have a dog who struggles this time of year.
Now that we understand the science behind our dogs’ inability to sleep later, let’s discuss how we can alter our dog’s circadian rhythms in order to keep them on schedule.
The trick is to begin right away. I am posting this blog on 10/27/21, this gives you plenty of time to prepare your dog for the end of daylight savings time on November 7. Please note, some dogs resist change. This is often found with dogs who adhere to a strict routine each day. While routine is important, being too rigid with their schedule can cause stress for a dog and make it difficult to acclimate to change.
Playtime and Walks
If you normally walk your dog the moment your alarm goes off, beginning tomorrow and continuing each day for the next 11 days, increase the time your dog must wait for you to get up. You can do that by setting the alarm five minutes earlier than normal. When the alarm goes off, hit snooze and stay in bed for that extra 5 minutes. The next day, set the alarm 10 minutes earlier than you need to get up. Continue to do this over the next few days. Doing so stops the dog from thinking the alarm means it is time to go out, go for a walk or play. By November 7, they should have acclimated to the new time schedule. Of course, not all will play along easily. It may take some dog owners longer to get their dogs on a new schedule.
When it comes to making your dog wait to go outside to the bathroom, you should move very slow with puppies, older dogs, dogs with medical issues and those who struggle with the five-minute rule. Delaying a bathroom break by 5 minutes, may be too long for them. Instead, delay bathroom and feeding times by only 2 or 3 minutes, and then slowly increasing that time to 4 and 5, etc. Never push your dog to wait longer than they are physically able. Check out our article on eight proven ways to get your dog to sleep later.
To prevent your dog from feeling hungry first thing in the morning, you should also refrain from feeding as soon as you get up. Change your morning routine a bit. Just like with your morning routine, the delay should only be in increments of 5 minutes per day. Do the same for lunch and dinner.
The time change due to daylight savings does not only disrupt the morning routine, evening routines can be equally stressful for a dog. We can all relate to the dislike of walking out of work at 5 pm into darkness.
Dogs are aware of sunlight phases due to the sun’s movement throughout the day. I don’t mean they are looking out the window and thinking, “it must be solar noon”, but they do notice when the sun that shines on their sun-bathing spot disappears. Scientists indicate that the sun and shadows around the house help dogs decipher when their family will return home from work.
When the sun sets and the house is dark, yet the family has not returned home, dogs tend to stress. If you have a dog walker, ask them to come a little later in the day. The late exercise may help the dog transition easier. If not, maybe a trusted neighbor or family member can stop by in the late afternoon for a few days as the dog acclimates.
Have patience with your dog as they transition to this time change. Stress can cause them to act out and display behaviors that are not typical. Remember, these behaviors are stress and not revenge. Dogs are not vengeful.
How does your dog handle the end of daylight savings time? What areas does your dog struggle during this time of year?
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Top: Photo by Murray Campbell on Unsplash
Middle/cover: Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash
Bottom: Photo by Katie Bernotsky on Unsplash