Want to Know Which Way Is North? Just Watch Your Dog Poop

Dog Pooping Behavior

Story at-a-glance

  • A team of German and Czech researchers spent two years evaluating the positions in which dogs relieve themselves, and have discovered that our canine companions seem to possess an inner compass. And it could be this inner compass that guides lost dogs home from great distances.
  • The researchers studied 70 canines from 37 different breeds and learned that regardless of breed, size, or gender, dogs tend to orient themselves north-to-south when they poop or pee. This only occurred consistently, however, when the Earth’s magnetic field was stable.
  • These study results provide additional evidence that animals detect electromagnetic waves humans cannot, and that in addition to their keen sense of smell and hearing, dogs also have a magnetic sense.

By Dr. Becker

For reasons only they can explain, a group of German and Czech researchers decided to study pooping dogs, which led to their finding that canines seem to possess an “inner compass.” Further, the researchers theorize that it could be the compass at work when a lost dog finds his way home from hundreds of miles away.

Researchers Discover That Dogs Align North-to-South to Do Their Business

According to the researchers, it seems when our canine companions stop outdoors to relieve themselves, they tend to follow a north-south magnetic axis if the Earth’s magnetic field is stable at the time nature calls.

The scientists noted no difference in magnetic sensitivity among different breeds of dogs, which during the course of their study included pooches as small as a Yorkshire Terrier and as large as a Saint Bernard.

“We found that the dogs are wonderfully aligned north-to-south – somewhat more so when they defecate than when they urinate – but only when the magnetic field is stable,” said researcher Dr. Sabine Begall of Germany’s Duisburg-Essen University, in an interview with the AFP global news service.

Two Years, 70 Dogs, and Over 5,500 Pees!

For the two-year study published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology,1 the research team evaluated 70 dogs across 37 different breeds as they pooped (1,893 times) and peed (5,582 times!). The researchers observed that dogs chose to point along the north-south axis to do their business, providing the magnetic field was stable. (When the field shifted, it made seeing the pattern more difficult.)

Both male and female dogs did the north-south thing when pooping, according to the researchers. But male dogs took slightly different positions than females while urinating, which was probably due to their leg-lifting behavior. The scientists are still trying to determine if the direction (right or left) of leg lifts affects a dog’s alignment.

In Addition to Their Acute Sense of Smell and Hearing, It Seems Dogs Also Have a Magnetic Sense

These study results are more proof that animals detect electromagnetic waves humans cannot, and that in addition to their keen sense of smell and hearing, dogs also have a magnetic sense.

According to study author Begall, “There are anecdotal reports that dogs find their way home over hundreds of kilometers (miles), and an explanation may be that they use the Earth’s magnetic field for their orientation.”

However, the researchers stop short of claiming to know what goes on inside a dog’s head when he’s pooping. It could be that dogs hone in on their location, but can’t do so when high electromagnetic activity interferes with their internal compass.

Or, it could be that when nature calls, dogs are able to sense a stable, comforting north-south polarity, which relaxes them.