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.

sasha-search-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 | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • porteagle

    really. first of all so what ? next , the dogs only did this 20 % of the time ?!!! and they only ‘preferred ‘ to do it on the axis. the worst study ever reported on paper and over the airwaves !
    we need real science reported not ‘frat house ‘ sci- fi !

  • ee76

    So does the dog always face north when pooping? And is it south when in the southern hemisphere?
    Do the dogs turn one way, but the other in different hemispheres?

  • RyansTake

    Actually, this is exactly the sort of reason why what most people would deem “unimportant” science issues deserve study, because if it can be proved dogs interact with magnetic fields that seems like a significant thing. Humans may also have some innate magnetic sense we’re unaware of, too, or perhaps we once did. What would explain why some mammalian species would have it, or some wouldn’t? These are questions that have merit.

    How would these issues be important for the future? We don’t know that, which is why it merits a look. This is how progress happens.

  • Sameboat1

    This type of silly study is exactly why people are beginning to question science in general, unfortunately.

  • Sameboat1

    Miniature Stonehenge?

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    yep! :-)

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    From what I hear, it’s an endless loop.

  • Steven Leahy

    Hey, that’s north south LOL

  • Steven Leahy

    LOL I need to watch how mine do it.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Precisely so. He never aims toward Silver Lake.

  • sword

    I wonder if the NSA has any data about what orientation GOPTP poop is laid down?

  • RobNYNY1957

    Unfortunately, my dog aligns himself with my bed when he decides to poop.

  • Big Giant Head

    crop, no crap circle

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Every dog I ever had was smart. They put off pooping until they couldn’t hold it any more because they knew that once they did their “business” the walk was over. Dogs are smart about the things they need to be smart about.

  • cole3244

    this proves dogs are more in tune with science than the right wingers are, not an unexpected conclusion.

  • Monoceros Forth

    If you’re actually in Los Angeles does he aim his faeces at Orange County?

  • nicho

    So, basically, liberals making laws to force us to pick up dog poop are screwing with the earth’s magnetic fields and causing global warming.

  • Steve

    My dog walked in a circle as he pooped. So there was no pile just a the pieces forming a circle about 15″ in diameter.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    I had that once in Korea and didn’t have time for a proper consideration of the deference due the magnetic alighnment.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    There are times MF, when critical reasoning is absolutely hilarious. There has got to be a political extrapolation in this somewhere.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Enjoy!

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Didn’t you read about John Boehner lining up in the North/South axis at the House urinals?

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Our dog, Bodhi, tends to excrete toward LA—–a prejudice, I suspect, of a typical Northern California dog from the Bay area.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I’m still in holiday mode in Chicago :)

  • basenjilover

    Just took my Basenjis for lunchtime walks; both Buddy and Logan Bear “excreted” westerly towards Santa Cruz Mtns after doing several circles and finding right spot….

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    There are days I’m glad I invested in an industrial steam cleaner many years ago. :)

  • emjayay

    Pretty funny how dog owners, particularly those who have to walk their dogs, can relate to this. We all have so much experience with observing this behavior. I never thought about the compass direction though. It’s just yay good doggie….now we can go home, but try to not get the dog to associate crapping with the walk being over somehow.
    So what did you write about today in your very important DC based political with a gay perspective blog, John? Ummmmmm….mostly dog pooping.

  • http://heimaey.us/ heimaey

    I’m bringing my iPhone out with me and testing this on the compass app. I do roll my eyes when they make such a big deal circling around. I’m sure they roll their eyes at me when I run to the toilet – so we’re even.

  • Monoceros Forth

    Normally I get pissed when Philistines like the “Ig Nobel” people sneer at scientific work that can be made out to look ridiculous and a waste of MAH TAX DOLLAHS. But studying the compass alignment of a dog’s turds? I’m not sure.

    I do appreciate that there’s a larger point being made here. If the goal is to determine if dogs in general have some ability to sense magnetic fields then choosing to study their defecation is perhaps a rather clever move. There are other less risible behaviors you could study but pooping is something that dogs are going to do often so you’ll get lots of data quickly. Also it’s a behavior that *cough* leaves physical evidence.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Animated gifs and Vine, baby :)

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Oh god, thank God I’ve never had THAT.

  • Ninong

    You can check out p. 25 of the linked study for just such a picture.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    I’m fairly certain none of my dogs have ever gotten the memo to poop facing the proper direction. But I do have a great story about the time my German shepherd/pit bull cross had a bad case of painful diarrhea and was running frantically around the living room yipping as it all came out, and I had no chance to get her to go outside.

  • HereinDC

    Whew…..thought you were going to back up that theory with a pic of Sasha in action. :)

  • S1AMER

    “What did you do at work today, Honey?”

    “Oh, watched dogs poop and pee. Up to 1,800 poops, so it’ll only be another hundred or so and I can move on to something else, like watching cats yawn.”

    “Wow, dear! You have such an exciting job!”

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