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Dogs Have 'Inner Compass' When Pooping, Study Suggests

By AFP News    January 03, 2014 / (3) comments

BERLIN - German and Czech researchers studying squatting dogs doing their business have found the pooches have an "inner compass" that may help explain how they find their way home over great distances.


When the four-legged friends stop during a walk to defecate or urinate, they tend to do so along a north-south axis, provided the earth's magnetic field is stable at the time, the scientists said Friday.


There was no notable difference in magneto-sensitivity among breeds, which ranged from a tiny Yorkshire terrier to a large St Bernard, said team member Dr Sabine Begall of Germany's Duisburg-Essen University.


"We found that the dogs are wonderfully aligned north-to-south -- somewhat more so when they defecate than when they urinate -- but only when the magnetic field is stable," Begall told AFP.


For the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology, the 10-member Czech and German research team asked 37 dog owners equipped with compasses over two years to record which way their total of 70 furry friends faced when they relieve themselves.


Initially, the scientists crunched the data from over 7,000 such events but found no clear trend. However, when they looked only at times of low magnetoelectric fluctuation, "there was a wonderful correlation", said Begall.


The findings are another clue that animals can sense electromagnetic waves not noticed by humans, and that dogs, aside from their sharp senses of hearing and smell, also have a "magnetic sense".


In 2008 the team studied Google Earth images and found that cattle tend to graze and lie down along a north-south axis, pointing to a sensitivity also suspected in migratory birds and other species.


"There are anecdotal reports that dogs find their way home over hundreds of kilometers (miles), and an explanation may be that they use the Earth's
magnetic field for their orientation," Begall said.


What exactly is going on inside a dog's head when it poops is however "pure speculation" for now, said Begall.


It may be that dogs take stock of where they are, the same way a hiker will orient a map northward, and that they can't do this when high electromagnetic
activity makes their "compass needle vibrate".


On the other hand, she said, it is possible that, when dogs feeling the urge to relieve themselves and sense a stable and comforting north-south
polarity, "they are especially relaxed".


Image: Jaromir Chalabala / via Shutterstock

Source: AFP

Comments  3

Leave Comment
  • Four dogs, no compass
    04/27/2014 06:49pm

    I have a Jindo, a Puggle, a Yorkie, and a Pit Bull that I walk at least a mile a day so I spend a fair amount of time observing the south end of a north bound dog. Since reading about this study I've tried to determine if any of the four exhibit this characteristic. NONE. The Yorkie, Bitsy, is the only one that has any sort of poop dance and she is completely adirectional. When the dance stops, pooping commences in whatever direction she has spun. The other three just go when the urge strikes whether we are on north/south or east/west legs of our path.

  • O
    10/09/2016 05:09pm

    Amen. The same with my dogs. When the dance is over, or the urge hits, the dogs do their thing. I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't government funded. More wasted money. Who cares which way they point. Bonnie C

  • This is BS
    11/27/2016 08:00pm

    My profession has me dealing with dozens of dogs daily. This is absolute nonsense. Where do you come up with this stuff?