Dogs use the Earth’s magnetic field when they’re relieving themselves. Not only that, but canines choose to do so in a north-south axis, a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology says.
The study suggests that dogs are sensitive to small variations in Earth’s magnetic field. After examining 70 dogs — made up of 37 breeds — over two years, 1,893 defecations and 5,582 urinations, researchers found that under “calm magnetic field conditions,” dogs preferred to “excrete with the body being aligned along the north-south axis,” avoiding east-west altogether. Dogs were observed in a free-roaming environment, meaning they were not leashed and not influenced by walls or roads that would influence linear movement.
Why do the dogs prefer the north-south axis and avoid east-west? That was unclear, according to the study:
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).
The scientists write in the report that the findings open “new horizons” for further research in organisms’ use of magnetic fields for direction, as well as magnetic fields produced by living organisms.