Dogs and daylight savings time

October 19, 2019

Twice a year in the UK the clocks change and we get an extra hour in bed in the autumn and rise an hour earlier in the spring. Just like us, dogs can be affected by the adjustment in time.  Here’s how to prepare dogs for daylight savings time. 

Spring forward, fall back is the mnemonic we use to remember which way the clocks are meant to go for daylight saving hours. Although who can actually remember which way round the mnemonic is supposed to be! To recap, in the spring, we put the clocks forward by one hour as we move into British summer time and begin a nice long spell of longer, lighter evenings. Come October, as the days get shorter, we squeeze out an extra hour of daylight in the mornings by putting the clocks back an hour, and our evenings once again get darker. 

Daylight savings time in October

It’s quite a nice feeling to wake up on the last Sunday of the month when the clocks have gone back to know that you’ve still got an extra hour of duvet time. That’s unless you’re a dog eagerly waiting for your breakfast and to be let out for a morning pee. 

Dogs of course can’t tell the time, but they do get used to our routine and behaviours which signal when they can expect to get their breakfast. This means that their body clock will be set to an hour earlier – the time they have been used to you getting up. They will be expecting to be let out to do their business at 7am (now 6am). The answer is to introduce the change in time to your dog gradually in the mornings. You should feed your dog and let them out 10 minutes later each day to build up to the full hour’s difference. 

This does of course mean that you won’t be able to enjoy that extra hour in bed for another week, but at least you won’t have a puddle on the floor or a pup with a rumbling tummy. 

Daylights savings time in March

You would think that dogs would be delighted to be fed an hour earlier when the clocks go forward at the end of March. But not so. Just like humans, dogs struggle more with the change in routine in the Spring than in October and it can take them a while to adjust to this difference. 

As when the clocks go back, you should introduce the change gradually. Start your dog’s morning routine 10 minutes earlier each morning until the hour’s difference has been reached. 

Maintaining your puppy’s daily routine

Changing the clocks can be particularly frustrating for new puppy parents. If you’re still getting to grips with toilet training and your puppy’s bedtime routine, the last thing you need is for the clocks to change. You may find that it takes a bit longer for your puppy to adjust to the change in time – be prepared possibly for a step backwards in toilet training. 

Other things to consider as a dog owner when the clocks change

As well as the morning and evening feeding and bedtime routines, your dog will still need to get their regular exercise. The clocks going forward signals the start of lighter days to enjoy glorious walks with your dog into the evenings. Come the end of daylight saving, when the clocks go back, it’s a return to darker evenings and, as winter progresses, darker mornings too. 

It’s much safer and more enjoyable for you and your dog to walk during the daylight hours if possible. It might be a good idea to employ a dog walker so that your dog can have a good run around when it’s light. 

 However, if you do need to walk your dog in the dark, here’s a few points on how to stay safe: 

  • Keep your dog on a lead
  • Wear bright or reflective clothing if you are going to be walking on a road, especially where there is no pavement
  • Take a torch
  • Stick to routes that you and your dog are familiar with

An end to Daylight Savings Time?

In 2019, the European Parliament voted to abolish changing the clocks twice a year from 2021. It is now up to member states to decide if they want to remain in permanent summer time or permanent winter time. This may or may not affect the UK, depending on the outcome of Brexit and timescales for leaving the EU.