Call me crazy, but I think watching my dogs poop is hilarious. The way they sniff about, scurry and circle around the perfect spot, to finally awkwardly hunker down into position. A recent study suggests that there may be a method to this madness, and the explanation is magnetism.
70 dogs of varying breeds, age, and sex were observed for two years while they took care of business (defecation and urination). The alignment of their body axis was analyzed in conjunction with the magnetic field conditions of Earth during the observation period. Geomagnetic conditions fluctuate depending on time and location, and magnetic declination occurs when magnetic north is deviates from true north (the physical direction moving towards the North pole). When magnetic declination is at 0%, compass north and true north are the same and the condition of the magnetic field is considered stable. When there is deviation from true north, the magnetic field is considered unstable. What researchers found was that under stable “calm magnetic conditions”, dogs preferred to align themselves with the north-south axis when dropping a deuce.
It is still unclear exactly why this response occurs only when the geomagnetic conditions are stable and why the dogs assumed a north-south alignment (as opposed to the east-west direction). The study also mentions that female dogs assumed this alignment while urinating as well, whereas male dogs aligned themselves slightly angled at north-west, possibly due to the “leg lift” position. Domesticated dogs are also dependent on their owner’s calls and commands, which may have an influence on responding to natural instincts and sensitivities to their surroundings.
The subject matter may be strange and begs the question, “WHY?” Yet, the implications may lead to further understanding on how geomagnetic sensitivity affects animal behavior. Similar studies have also been researched in other mammals, such as deer, cattle, and foxes, in regards to grazing/feeding, hunting, homing, and other navigational behaviors in the wild.
Just the other day, I observed both my dogs doing their thing while facing toward the same direction. Is it because of their innate sensitivity to the Earth’s magnetic field or just pure coincidence? I should invest in a good compass to figure it out.