Scientists observe dogs relieving themselves, discover something amazing

Dogs are sensitive to Earth's magnetic field, says a team of Czech and German scientists.

2013 Hart et al.
Dogs have a tendency to align themselves along a north-south axis when going to the bathroom, say scientists.

A dog answering nature's call might also be doing something more subtle. 

A team of Czech and German researchers has found that, all else being equal, when a dog wants to go powder its rhinarium, it will tend to do so while standing in alignment with Earth's magnetic field.

The two-year study, which involved 37 dog owners, 70 dogs, and 7,475 instances of the animals relieving themselves outside while their owners dutifully took notes, is the first demonstration of magnetic sensitivity in dogs. The authors write that their findings, which appeared last week in the journal Frontiers in Zoology, "open new horizons for biomagnetic research." 

The scientists, who are affiliated with Germany's University of Duisburg-Essen and the Czech University of Life Sciences, asked dog owners in the two countries to measure the alignment of their dogs' thoracic spines as the pets fed, rested, urinated, and defecated. They found observations of the final two activities to be the most promising, noting that excretion "seems to be least prone to be affected by the surroundings."

They then compared the data to the prevailing geomagnetic conditions at the time of each instance. The results: When our planet's magnetic field is quiet, dogs are more likely to do their business while standing along a north-south axis. Indeed, the data suggested that the animals were actively avoiding the east-west axis.

Magnetoception – the sense that allows an organism to determine its position relative to a magnetic field – has been documented among bacteria, molluscs, insects, chickens, and, famously, homing pigeons. Among mammals, some research indicates that the ability could also exist among some species of rodents, bats, foxes, cattle, and deer. Humans are not believed to have a magnetic sense, although a 2011 study uncovered a protein in our eyes that is apparently sensitive to Earth's magnetic field.

The scientists admit that they don't know the reason for the dogs' apparent polar inclination, or what's going through those canine minds as they circle around before assuming the position.

"It is still enigmatic," they write, "why the dogs do align at all, whether they do it 'consciously' (i.e., whether the magnetic field is sensorial perceived (the dogs 'see', 'hear' or 'smell' the compass direction or perceive it as a haptic stimulus) or whether its reception is controlled on the vegetative level (they “feel better/more comfortable or worse/less comfortable” in a certain direction)." 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Scientists observe dogs relieving themselves, discover something amazing
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today