Dogs handle bathroom business in alignment with Earth's magnetic field, study says

A new study sheds light on why dogs might spend so much time looking for that perfect spot to do their business. 

Writing in the journal Frontiers in Zoology, researchers at the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague performed a study to see whether there was evidence to show that dogs demonstrate “magnetosensitivity.”

Based on the premise that some animals align their bodies in relation to the Earth’s magnetic field, the researchers observed the alignment of dogs’ bodies during defecation and urination. Over a two-year period, they recorded data for 70 dogs and close to 2,000 defecations. The measurements were taken by handheld compass in open fields, away from roads and other structures that might have influenced the dogs’ alignments. 

Originally the results were inconclusive and there did not seem to be any indication that dogs sensed the magnetic field. But when the scientists checked the data against the geomagnetic conditions at the time of each recorded event, what they found was surprising. When the Earth’s magnetic field is calm, dogs like to align their bodies along a North-South axis while defecating. When the polarity of the magnetic field (MF) shifted, the dogs showed little or no preference on which way they aligned. 

“It is for the first time that (a) magnetic sensitivity was proved in dogs, (b) a measurable, predictable behavioral reaction upon natural MF fluctuations could be unambiguously proven in a mammal, and (c) high sensitivity to small changes in polarity, rather than in intensity, of MF was identified as biologically meaningful,” the researchers concluded. “Our findings open new horizons in magnetoreception research. Since the MF is calm in only about 20% of the daylight period, our findings might provide an explanation why many magnetoreception experiments were hardly replicable and why directional values of records in diverse observations are frequently compromised by scatter.”

Read the full study at the Frontiers in Zoology website

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