Dogs have a fascinating habit of aligning their bodies in a specific direction, based on the Earth’s magnetic field, when they defecate. This remarkable phenomenon has been confirmed by recent scientific research, which discovered that dogs are sensitive to even minor variations in the Earth’s magnetic field, influencing their bathroom habits.
A group of European scientists, after observing dogs for multiple years, found that dogs tend to orient their bodies along the North-South axis when the magnetic field is stable, while defecating. Conversely, no specific directional preference was noted when the magnetic field was unstable.
The team of researchers from the Czech University of Life Sciences and the University of Duisburg-Essen explained their study in the abstract published in Frontiers in Zoology:
“Over a two-year period, we observed the body axis direction in 70 dogs across 37 breeds during defecation (1,893 observations) and urination (5,582 observations). Upon concluding the data collection, we sorted the data based on the geomagnetic conditions during the corresponding sampling periods.
We calculated the relative declination and intensity changes of the magnetic field during each dog walk using daily magnetograms. Using circular statistics, we then analyzed and tested the dogs’ directional preferences under varying magnetic field conditions.”
The researchers deduced from their study that the dogs’ defecation behavior could be predicted based on fluctuations in the magnetic field. However, they were uncertain about why dogs align in this manner and whether the alignment is a conscious or unconscious act.
The scientists pondered, “The question remains as to why dogs align at all, whether they do it ‘consciously’ (i.e., if the magnetic field is sensed (do the dogs ‘see,’ ‘hear’ or ‘smell’ the compass direction, or perceive it as a physical stimulus) or if its reception is controlled on a subconscious level (do they ‘feel better/more comfortable or worse/less comfortable’ in a certain direction). Our analysis of the raw data (not detailed here) implies that dogs not only favor the North-South direction but simultaneously avoid the East-West direction.”
Observations of magnetic alignment have been made in other mammals too, such as cattle, roe deer, and red foxes. For instance, red foxes can locate field mice buried under several feet of snow by tapping into the planet’s magnetic field.
They utilize this sense to plot their course to catch prey. Similarly, the vast territories that wolves occupy suggest they possess superior navigation abilities. Dogs, known for their impressive homing skills, also led researchers to theorize that they might possess magneto-reception.
With this newfound understanding in dogs, the scientists stated it paves the way for novel directions in magnetobiological research.