Dogs poop in alignment with earth’s magnetic field, study says

A new study finds that dogs prefer to poop in a north-south axis, determined by the earth’s magnetic field.


The study, conducted by Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper and others, noted that a number of mammalian species, including cattle and deer, align their bodies with the earth’s magnetic field during various behaviors, so they wanted to test it with dogs.  Foxes reportedly use the earth’s magnetic field to hunt prey.  And salmon, while not mammals, are thought to use the earth’s magnetic field while migrating home.

They initially looked at a variety of behaviors in dogs, including rest, feeding, and excreting, but eventually honed in on urination and defecation.

Sasha has not been terribly interested in aligning herself with the earth's magnetic field in the 8°F Chicago weather.

Sasha has not been terribly interested in aligning herself with the earth’s magnetic field in the 8°F Chicago weather. Monday’s HIGH is expected to be -12°F (-24°C), so we’re hoping to get out by then.

The researchers examined 70 dogs, making up 37 breeds while they pooped 1,893 times, and urinated 5,582 times over a two-year period.

What they found was that dogs not only prefer to poop in a north-south alignment, but that they actually avoid pooping in an E-W direction.

The study couldn’t determine whether dogs consciously choose a certain alignment before pooping – in other words, whether dogs “see, “hear” or “smell” the correct direction – or whether dogs simply “‘feel better/more comfortable or worse/less comfortable’ in a certain direction’.”

The study also found that dogs don’t always poop in the direction of the earth’s magnetic field, explaining that this was likely due to fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic field.  The dogs tended to choose the north-south alignment only during “calm” periods in the magnetic field, which occur only around 20% of the time during daylight hours.

Every dog owner is familiar with the intricacies of doggy-pooping.  It seems to be a quite delicate dance, for some dogs – and conditions must be just right or it won’t happen.  My Sasha is a relatively easy pooper, but things still need to be just right.  My mom’s dog, Kukla, on the other hand, is a basket case.  Kukla usually has to walk blocks and blocks first – regardless of whether it’s approaching zero outside – and even then the result is not always guaranteed.

Some conjecture that the troublesome poopers need more exercise to stimulate their urge to poop, but I’ve seen  dogs who are always just on the verge of relieving themselves, then something goes haywire, they get spooked, and the long dance continues.  So now it’s not just about getting the appropriate exercise to loosen things up.

I’m now curious as to whether some of the weirdness involved in getting a dog to poop isn’t based on their magnetic field theory.  Perhaps some dogs are more sensitive, or less sensitive, to the earth’s magnetic field, and one of those dogs – the more or the less sensitive – have a more difficult time getting that “just right” magnetic feeling before pooping.

And putting poop aside for a moment, who doesn’t have a story about a family dog that got loose and traveled miles to get back home at some point.  Our dogs have.  And we’ve always wondered how the dog could navigate that well over several miles.  And perhaps, in addition to smell, it’s the earth’s magnetic field, and a doggone good sense of memory.

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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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