Dogs Align Themselves to Earth’s Magnetic Field When Pooping

By Breanna Draxler | January 2, 2014 2:39 pm

north-defecateDogs seem to do their business wherever they feel like it, sometimes in very unfortunate places like neighbors’ yards and kids’ sandboxes. But scientists now say it isn’t random: dogs actually align themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field before dropping a doody.

An ability to sense the orientation of the Earth’s magnetic field has been detected in migratory animals such as birds, whales and bees. They are thought to use it for navigation. But this study is the first to find such “magnetosensitivity” in dogs. The researchers spent two years gathering the necessary data (i.e., watching 5,582 pee breaks and 1,893 defecation stops) in Germany and the Czech Republic. After ruling out the influence of wind, time of day, and sun angle, the researchers found that the only factor that played a role in determining how and where the dogs popped a squat was the Earth’s magnetic field.

Canine Compass

When the field was stable, dogs preferred to squat along the North-South axis and actively avoided the East-West axis. That’s without the influence of leashes, fire hydrants or fences.

The researchers don’t know if the 70 dogs in the study actually “felt” the magnetic pull, according to the paper published in Frontiers in Zoology. But the scientists base their conclusion on the fact that during periods of instability in the Earth’s magnetic field, when the sun’s magnetic field and solar winds vary its orientation, the dogs no longer showed a preference for the North-South axis.

Next time you take Fido for a walk, bring a compass and see if the results hold true.

Image credit: Aquir/Nejron Photo/Shutterstock

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals, dogs, earth science
  • Janie Windham Waits

    Very interesting……

  • Fernando Edgar Cuello

    preferred to squat along norh south or south north? and if they did this, what in the south hemisphere???

  • http://www.harrop.info/ Mike Harrop

    they do align themselves, but it may not be for magnetic reasons, but social or distance related, and peeing alignment may not be the same as pooing. More work needed to ensure serious science in this, er, field.

    • unStunned

      Except, the study found that during period of disturbed magnetism, the dog’s orientation was random.

  • Wendell

    Interesting, as I’m always looking at ways to point my rear end toward Southern California, even though I’m not a dog. Still, it seems to make some sense now.

    • BarbPostID

      Oh my gosh, how absolutely clever. I’ll bet you’re just a scream at parties.

      • Wendell

        I know right?

      • ShieldsCW

        As if sarcasm is any better? He’s got 4 times the upvotes that you do.

    • bjreg3

      I don’t know, my rear end points to Washington DC

  • Zdeno Czarnowiejski

    but why would they do that?

  • Odin Matanguihan

    do they correct for magnetic declination?

    And what if the dog simply enjoy having the sun shining on his side?

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Breanna Draxler

      The researchers did look specifically at declination and the “sunning” alternative. If you want more details about their methods and findings, you can read the full paper here [pdf]: http://www.frontiersinzoology.com/content/pdf/1742-9994-10-80.pdf

      • Douglas J. Bender

        What about farting?

  • Chelsea Divine Gillego

    I guess my dog also happened to do that ,i think my dogis related to the magnetic field of earth .

    • Bad dog, Ph.D.

      I think you are on to something. This sheds light on the mystery of the earth’s magnetic field. The iron magma in the earth’s mantle is perhaps orienting to the millions of dogs pooping at any given moment. Not the other way around. But then, why would dogs suddenly flip their preferred orientation every few thousand years, as evidenced by the field polarity change?

      • Douglas J. Bender

        Why? Prevailing winds.

  • Chelsea Divine Gillego

    How about if we live in venus?It has no magnetic field ,will the dog poop there or not?

  • TulsaDavid

    Our Cairn Terrier prefers to face east-west in his lawn depositing ritual. We told him that science says he should prefer to face north-south. He simply guffawed, “Bulldog!”

    If a dog poops in the woods, and there’s no one there to verify his alignment, will it still have a smell?

    • Bad dog, Ph.D.

      It would still smell of pseudoscience

    • igotacomment

      Only if there were a nose to smell the smell. But then does a dog smell its own poop?

  • CriticalDragon1177

    weird, I’d think that dogs being so fussy about this would be a major disadvantage.

  • phunnyphilly

    Is this why it’s called a compASS? Has to be some evolutionary benefit for this behavior…

    • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

      Just a weird side effect of the sense of direction that allows for the type of behavior that Homeward Bound taught me is ubiquitous.

    • rgrandall

      HA …. the only GOOD comment in this tread, so far …..

    • Don’t Even Try It!

      Possibly!

  • rob

    Who cares? The very fact that “they” studied this, is a little alarming considering all the problems mankind faces.

    • Jon Nixon

      Well, think of it this way- perhaps the cause of war lies buried in the fact that we have not been paying attention to where we place our household toilets- unsatisfied people are known to do nasty things……

    • JJK

      Thank you… and did they apply for funding for this study? And if so, who’s the nincomPOOP that granted the funding?
      :D

      • Arthur Smith

        I imagine (hopefully) that this didn’t require much funding – just a couple of bored scientists and their dogs, with nothing else to think about while their dogs did their business.

        • igotacomment

          No, they studied 70 dog. They got funding. If The National Instutes of Health paid researchers $400,000 to deduce why gay men in Argentina engage in risky sexual behavior when they’re drunk and also paid a researcher $175,587 “to determine if cocaine makes japanese quail engage in sexually risky behavior,” they likely paid for the dog study also.

          • Sue

            Actually, no. the observations were done by 37 dog owners, who were friends, students of, and colleagues of the authors. So It was not very expensive. And it was financed by the Czech Republic.Nothing to do with the NIH.

      • Don’t Even Try It!

        bho, most likely would approve such funding.

      • igotacomment

        They’ve studied a whole lot dumber things than dogs alignment to the magnetic poles.

  • Larry

    Muhammad hated dogs!

    I wonder are these dogs pointing their bums towards Mecca?

    • hanson

      Do u have some phobia? Talking about dogs, well ?

      • Larry

        Islam stands on two pillars:

        (1) Commandments of Allah as enshrined in the Quran, and

        (2) Commands, actions and deeds of Prophet Muhammad.

        In more than a dozen verses (3:32; 4:13,59,69; 5:92; 8:1,20,46; 9:71; 24:47,51–52,54,56; 33:33; 47:33;
        49:14; 58:13; 64:12), the Quran commands Muslims to follow Allah and His Apostle (i.e. Muhammad). So, the commands, deeds, and actions of Prophet Muhammad are no less important in Islam than Allah’s commands
        and precepts in the Quran.

        4. Kill the Dogs

        a) Sahih Muslim 5248:

        Narrated Maymunah:
        “One morning Allah’s Messenger was silent with grief. Maymunah said:
        Allah’s Messenger, I find a change in your mood today. Allah’s Messenger said: Gabriel had promised me that he would meet me last night, but he did not meet me. By Allah, he never broke his promises; and Allah’s
        Messenger spent the day in this sad (mood). Then it occurred to him that there had been a puppy under their cot. He gave an order and it was turned out. He then took some water in his hand and sprinkled it on the place. When it was evening Gabriel met him and he said to him: You promised me that you would meet me the previous night. He said: Yes, but we do not enter a house in which there is a dog or a picture. So the
        very next morning he commanded the dogs to be killed. He announced that the dog kept for the orchards should also be killed, but he spared the dog used for the protection of extensive fields (or big gardens).”

        b) Malik’s Muwatta, Book 54, Number 54.5.13:

        “Malik related from Nafi from Abdullah Ibn Umar that the Messenger of God ordered all dogs (other than sheepdogs or hunting dogs) to be killed”.

        c) Hanbal 4/85; 5/54:

        The Messenger of God said: “You shall kill all black dogs; because they are devils.”

    • colindenronden

      I think you might be correct. The Koran says you are not to point your genitalia towards Mecca when peeing or your bum towards Mecca while pooping. The dogs are poo-pooing that idea, they are undeterred.

      • Larry

        While defecating in the open space neither face nor turn your back towards Qibla (Kaba); instead, face the east or the west… (Sahih Bukhari, 1.4.146)

        While excreting or urinating do not face the Qibla…(Sahih Muslim, 2.0504)

        When defecating in the desert do not face Qibla nor turn your backside towards Qibla; use three sods and your right hand to cleanse your private parts…
        (Sunaan Tirmidhi, 128)

        While defecating do not face or show backside to
        Allah… (Mishkat, 1.185)

        • Douglas J. Bender

          “While defecating in the open space neither face nor turn your back towards Qibla (Kaba); instead, face the east or the west… (Sahih
          Bukhari, 1.4.146)”

          Proof that Allah inspired the Koran! No mere human could be directly east or west of the Kaaba, and then face west or east WITHOUT facing or turning their back towards the Kaaba.

          • Larry

            ALLAH DECREED HOW & WHERE TO HAVE A CRAP:

            Like or not, toilet protocols, as prescribed in Islam, are mandatory to all Muslims. Non‑Muslims might loathe reading this episode on Islamic toilet voodoo, as it contains obnoxious, tasteless, indecent, and uncivil manners and customs, largely followed by
            desert Bedouins during Muhammad’s time. Lest we forget, Allah will never forgive a Muslim for deviating from His standard of Islamic toilet habits as demonstrated by Muhammad.

            It is also important to keep in perspective the primitive toilet facilities in Muhammad’s household. The truth is: Muhammad, including his wives, used to relieve themselves in the open desert, under the open sky. The males could defecate any time of the day or night, but Muhammad’s wives were restricted to answer their calls of nature only at night. Described by a few ahadith, we have a glimpse
            of the abject toilet facilities in Muhammad’s family. Here are a few examples:

            Wives of Muhammad answered the call of nature in the open field…(Sahih Bukhari, 1.4.148, 149)

            During Hajj some of Muhammad’s companions had their penises dripping with prostrate
            fluid… (Sunaan Abu Dawud, 2.10.1785)

            When defecating together (two men) do not converse, do not look at each others private parts… (Sunaan ibn Majah, 1.342)

            Carry three stones while relieving yourself in desert…(Mishkat, 1.186)

            To be certain, let us read in full, one hadis from Sahih Bukhari:

            Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 4, Number 148:

            Narrated ‘Aisha:

            The wives of the Prophet used to go to Al-Manasi, a vast open place (near Baqia at Medina) to answer the call of nature at night. ‘Umar used to say to the Prophet “Let your wives be veiled,” but Allah’s Apostle did not do so. One night Sauda bint Zam’a the wife of the
            Prophet went out at ‘Isha’ time and she was a tall lady. ‘Umar addressed her and said, “I have recognized you, O Sauda.” He said
            so, as he desired eagerly that the verses of Al-Hijab (the observing of veils by the Muslim women) may be revealed. So Allah revealed the verses of “Al-Hijab” (A complete body cover excluding the eyes).

            The above hadis also tells us why Muhammad imposed veils on Islamic women.

    • bjreg3

      Ah, and the dogs sphincter is winking at him too.

      • Pip Power

        THE BLIND FLYING THE BLIND

        A WOMAN was flying from Seattle to San Francisco.
        Unexpectedly, the plane was diverted to Sacramento
        along the way. The flight attendant explained that there would be a delay, and if the passengers wanted to get off the aircraft the plane would re-board in 50 minutes.

        Everybody got off the plane except one lady who was blind. The man had noticed her as he walked by and could tell the lady was blind because her Seeing Eye dog lay quietly underneath the seats in front of her
        throughout the entire flight.

        He could also tell she had flown this very flight before because the pilot approached her, and calling her by name, said, “Kathy, we are in Sacramento for almost an hour. Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?” The blind lady replied, “No thanks, but maybe my dog would like to stretch his legs.”

        Picture this:

        All the people in the gate area came to a complete standstill when they looked up and saw the pilot walk off the plane with a Seeing Eye dog!

        The pilot was even wearing sunglasses.
        People scattered. They not only tried to change planes, but they were trying to change airlines!

        True story…. Have a great day and remember…

        THINGS AREN’T ALWAYS AS THEY APPEAR.

  • Larry

    Do Dogs face Mecca when having a crap?

    • hanson

      Dogs are better than u

  • Jeannie Renninger

    If they were smart enough go to the Indian Chief he can explain with out having to have funding, idiots

  • Monte Martin

    Who paid for such a study? Did they pay with my money?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Glenna Robinson

    My dogs always walked forward and turned in circles while they did their business. What’s the reason for this? Do they face the oppisite direction in Australlia?

  • unStunned

    I would too, but whoever designed my house just had zero feng shui.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Diane Fisher

    All right, I don’t understand why so many people seem thrown by the fact that this involves defecation. The main point is that dogs seem to be able to sense magnetic north. If true, I wonder if it would be possible to teach a command such as, “point North?”

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Mike Rath

    And all these years in the field with my dog and I didn’t need my compass?! My dogs pile almost always formed a cross or X, perhaps to mark the spot? It may also explain why she always circled before finally settling into her squat – trying to find the right alignment!

  • bwana

    If if was April 1st, I’d take this article in the appropriate manner. I have six dogs and none of them have any preference for which way they face when they do their job! I think the article is a bunch of “crap”….

  • melinda

    My dog turns in a circle as she poops. Is this evidence of orbiting bodies?

  • Diane

    My dog doesn’t know what a magnetic field is! LOL…..

  • Don’t Even Try It!

    Dogs like to give us things to think about. Who cares which direction they poop or pee, as long as you’re not down wind!

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Brent Whote

      Your image is inciting to treason.

  • Don’t Even Try It!

    Quick, all the democraps pass a law that all new construction of homes and businesses must have toilets that face north/s!outh

  • delashmit

    This study is Pure poppycock to express it clearly. My dogs align in a East-West direction to pee and crap. When they get ready for bed they turn around circles based on their wolf heritage to pack the grass down even when they are in the house.

  • delashmit

    The only good thing about this study is that the best I can find out the US Government did not pay for it.

  • delashmit

    Before you attack me, No my dogs are not retarded. In fact they are very smart.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Holly Harken

    My dogs aren’t following the rules. They poo in any old direction.

  • bjreg3

    This study is almost as interesting as ” the evolution of fusiform feces in predator prey relationships”, or why turds are tapered at their ends……LOL

    • Bugsie

      FYI, dog poop is tapered so their butts don’t slam shut.

      • bjreg3

        No kidding……so Sabre tooth tigers won’t get them in mid-squat……..

  • Les Linz

    That’s interesting. So when the grass is especially tall, a compass would help us to better find the poops?

  • disqus_wHYXlTfvXZ

    I am soooo glad that “Scientists” in the US can still get a research grant to study which way a dog lays a “doody”. Next time I take my dog out for a walk as well as a poop (doody) bag I will be sure to take a compass.

    If you get a “floater” you could put it in a bucket of water and use it to navigate by. Or would you have to throw the dog into water and navigate by that? At last a use for the Chiwawa.

    • lindsncal

      Hah…..you apparently missed the whole message of the study and what it could show us about the incredible abilities of animal instincts and how they can be applied.
      Americans don’t seem to understand science very well, however they do have the highest percentage of people who believe angels are real.

  • Kronosargh

    Did anyone see the movie “Idiocracy” . This forum is proof positive it is coming . What about “how does a biological organism sense magnetic direction. What organ provides the input.” Jeez..what a bunch of Luddites.

    • lindsncal

      What’s proof positive of the movie is your comment.

      • Kronosargh

        Thanks for the personal attack.

  • Douglas J. Bender

    Somebody should make a t-shirt that has a tough-looking dog, with the caption, “Don’t poop into the wind”, on it.

  • Douglas J. Bender

    Did the dogs know they were being observed?

  • tikitools1

    And wait was gained by this?

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