A team of Czech and German life scientists found that dogs are sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic field.
The scientists spent two years watching dogs do their business a total of 7,500 times. The dogs, which had free reign of a field and were not on leashes, showed a marked preference for aligning themselves along the north-south axis to poop and pee. These findings did not change based on breed or gender, and dogs appeared to sense minor, normal fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field.
The results have even the scientists stumped. The study reads, “It is still enigmatic why the dogs do align at all, whether they do it ‘consciously’ (i.e., whether the magnetic field is sensorial perceived (the dogs ‘see,’ ‘hear’ or ‘smell’ the compass direction or perceive it as a haptic stimulus)) or whether its reception is controlled on the vegetative level (they ‘feel better/more comfortable or worse/less comfortable’ in a certain direction).”
Despite the remaining questions, experts believe the findings are important. Animals like birds, fish and turtles are known to sense the magnetic field and utilize it during migration. However, this is the first time magnetic sensitivity has been proven in dogs, which may say more about wild relatives like wolves, foxes and coyotes than today’s domesticated dogs.
The study says dog owners shouldn’t try to replicate the findings. Dogs are more inclined to follow cues from their humans and surroundings than to follow base instincts. So when they’re on leashes, surrounded by fences and walls that aren’t necessarily running north-south, they’re likely to ignore any sense of magnetism.
The complete results are published in Frontiers in Zoology.