Dogs’ Internal Compass and Why It Matters

A new study shows that dogs prefer to align in the north-south magnetic field axis when relieving themselves. Photo Credit: Mike Finkelstein

A new study shows that dogs prefer to align in the north-south magnetic field axis when relieving themselves. Photo Credit: Mike Finkelstein

You’ve probably heard by now that your dog has a reason for all that spinning and circling around before picking the perfect spot to excrete. If not, here’s the rundown: German and Czech researchers have found that dogs prefer to align their bodies along the north-south axis of the earth’s magnetic field during excretion. They also found that dogs avoid aligning their bodies along the east-west axis. These findings are from 7,000 observations over a 2 year period of 70 dogs of 37 different breeds defecating and urinating.

You might be wondering, like many others, what’s the big deal? Why does this matter? Obviously, more research is needed but perhaps this phenomenon is a clue in how Bucky the Labrador was able to travel 500-miles from Virginia to home in Myrtle Beach, SC. Maybe this same clue is also how Junior the Jack Russell Terrier was able to navigate his way home after being missing for 8 years. There is growing research that many animals use earth’s magnetic field to migrate long distances. We here at Dognition would be curious to see if the same is true for dogs!

Dogs’ ability to sense changes in the earth’s magnetic field could also be one additional explanation for why many dogs suffer from anxiety during thunderstorms or other inclement weather. Maybe dogs are feeling uneasy from the change in magnetic field already, making them more sensitive to the thunder, rain, or lightning. No research on this exists yet, but we think its important to learn more!

As trivial as this research may seem (it is dogs pooping after all), it may offer a new understanding of dogs’ navigational abilities or thunderstorm anxiety to dog owners, scientists, AND dog owning scientists! In the end, although there is always training, maybe one day there will be a east-west magnetic field generator to stop the unruly pup from leaving presents on the carpet!

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Dognition

Dognition lets you discover how your dog thinks so you two can connect on a whole new level. It’s like getting a "dog's-eye view" of your best friend's world.
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