This Is Why Your Dog Knows When You’re Coming Home

Ever wondered how your dog knows when you’re coming home? You’re not the only one.

Coming home after a long day at work to be received by a hyper doggo wagging his tail in excitement has led many people to ask themselves how a dog knows when you’re coming home.

This is more common than you might think, I’m pretty sure your dog does it, but how?

3 Reasons Why | How Does My Dog Know When I’m Coming Home

This Is Why Your Dog Knows When You’re Coming Home

We lack scientific research on this topic to have a definitive conclusion, but there are many hypotheses that could explain it, let’s dive in so you can pick the one that suits your dog the best.

#1.- Human-Dog Trans-Millennial Bond

Police German Shepherd Dog

I know, I know, a German Shepherd as a police dog is a bit stereotypical.

Dogs have been our partners for at least 14,000 years, enough time to learn each other habits, corporal language, and habits; doggos are hard-wired to learn our behavior patterns.

Hunting with us, fighting to survive from ancient times, now they’re mostly for family companion and unconditional love, but they’re still being great to understand us.

“If he’s eating breakfast in a rush then he’s about to leave…when will the hooman return? Oh I can hear his car now”

It’s all about the cues your dog picks up while you’re so busy getting ready for work that you don’t even realize he’s analyzing you.

From simple examples like the sound of your car’s motor to more complex things that are amusingly interesting such as the clothes you’re wearing that specific day or the time at which you wake up, your dog knows when you’re coming home because he/she’s extremely good at catching environmental cues within your day-to-day.

“If you take the subway and usually get home at 5:30, the dog may be triggered by the local bus that drives by every day at 5:25.”

                               – Matt Shipman at North Carolina State University.

Not trying to get pseudoscientific, while there’s a powerful bond between us and our dogs that goes beyond present-day scientific understanding, it’s proved that dogs can read our emotions and facial expressions.

To summarize, dogs can pick up details such as our body language and link them to other environmental cues, (like the sound of our car) to know when we’re coming home.

  • That example is too typical, what else could it be? How does my dog know when I’m coming home if I don’t have a car?
  • If you live in an apartment, for example, it could be the sound of the elevator opening and closing alongside with the echoing of your keys.

#2.- A dog’s smell can help with that too!

Dog smelling his owner

Sniff…Sniff…is dat you?

Yeah, we all know that a dog’s sense of smell is extremely powerful, but it can smell more things than food, which can help them to have an idea of when you are approaching combining it with their ability to know (at least roughly) what time it is.

It’s not that they smell us from a thousand miles of distance but keeping track of the intensity of our odors throughout the day, as Alexandra Horowitz states in her book Being a Dog.

“It might be that the odors that we leave around the house when we leave lessen in a consistent amount each day.”

                                               – Alexandra Horowitz, author of Being a Dog.

To make it simple: Our dog knows that when the odors we left start vanishing, we’ll be at home very soon.

This works mainly if we have an established routine: dogs can memorize schedules with ease, so if we take our odors disappearing + average arrival time = happy doggos knows when hooman will be at home, or at least when he should be at home so he can lie in front of the door waiting for you.

Still wondering how your dog knows when you’re coming home? We’ve got a final theory (or reason, should I say?) for you.

#3.- The Doggo Clock

Dog Inner Clock

Time-master Puggo

Every dog has an inner sense of time, a perception of it based on his circadian rhythm (any biological process happening in a 24-hour cycle) which can be used to get a rough idea of when you’re coming home.

The circadian rhythm regulates many hormonal changes happening in all animals everyday, making them have activity peaks in the mid-morning and early evenings.

Your dog knows when you’re coming home because you usually arrive at home in the evening or at X time, his biological clock will tell him when that time is.

“Dogs wear an actual clock-though internally. It is in the so-called pacemaker of their brain, which regulates the activities of other cells of the body through the day.”

                                        – Alexandra Horowitz, author of Being a Dog.

For example, if you arrive from work at night then your dog will be more likely to wait for you when the daylight has faded to let the moon be the protagonist of a starry night.

So, how do you think that your dog knows when you’re coming home? It could be a mix of many things: your smells, the time at which your odors at home start to disappear, when an external trigger appears, or he could’ve simply memorized your routine, what’s your case? Tell us, we love to read your stories! 😀

WHAT WE LEARNED TODAY | This Is Why Your Dog Knows When You’re Coming Home

Corgi excited to catch the ball

  • Dogs can tell when you’re coming home by the intensity of the odors that you left at home.
  • Your body language and habits are very easy for your doggo to pick up and associate with something (like you leaving for work).
  • A dog’s circadian rhythm can tell him when you’re about to arrive (or at least when you should be close to).