Dog owners are familiar with the sight of Spike sniffing, hovering, rotating, and then finally settling in to handle his business. It may seem like quite a production, but the pup may actually be getting into proper alignment with the Earth's magnetic field.
A team of scientists is behind a new study published in Frontiers in Zoology and titled "Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth's magnetic field." The researchers started off by observing dog behaviors such as resting and feeding, but soon zeroed in on excreting as the main focus.
The study concludes that, "Dogs preferred to excrete with the body being aligned along the North-south axis under calm MF [magnetic field] conditions." When the magnetic field isn't calm, that directional behavior evaporates and the pooches aim any which way. The Earth's magnetic field is only calm for about 20 percent of the daylight period, so you may have a hard time replicating the study's findings with your own fuzzy test subject.
The study shows a high level of dedication, with the researchers logging 1,893 dog-defecation observations using breeds ranging from beagles to mutts. The data was collected outside in open fields so dogs wouldn't be biased by routines established during regular walks. The study reads, "alignment during excreting was apparent under conditions of quiet magnet field, irrespective of the time of day or month."
If the scientists' discovery of magnetoreception (yes, it sounds like a super power) in dogs holds up, then dogs could start to play a new role in research, perhaps even in the biomedical sector, the study suggests. It may also help impatient dog owners come to a new understanding of why it takes so long for Princess Fuzzsnacks to complete her bathroom duty. Sometimes, it's all about getting into the right alignment.