At first glance–or sniff–it would seem like a bizarre topic for scientific research.
Those of us who live with dogs have probably caught ourselves wondering why there seems to be so much contemplation and sniffing to determine the best spot to poop. I’ve pondered the question quite a bit recently, while standing outside in the bitter cold as Tucker makes up his mind where to leave a deposit.
Imagine the scientist who asked for a grant to study the way dogs poop; it sounds more like a grad student hazing ritual. “We need to study how dogs poop. Carlson, take Fifi for a walk!”
Dogs most often poo in a north-south direction
Seriously, though, a new study entitled published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology entitled “Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field” found that dogs like to poo aligned in a north-south direction. Not only do they prefer this alignment, but apparently, they actively avoid the east-west axis. Scientists don’t know whether they do it because they can somehow perceive the magnetic field (seeing or hearing it for example) or it just feels “better/more comfortable or worse/less comfortable” in a certain direction.
Spot may have trouble finding a good spot to go, when there are fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic field
After two years watching 70 dogs of different breeds and sexes poop–accounting for 1,893 piles–and pee 5,582 times (It’s science, so it’s important to be specific), researches have found that when the magnetic field fluctuates, “this directional behavior was abolished.”
And there it is. That’s why Fido just can’t seem to find the right place. When the earth’s magnetic field is even slightly out of whack, which happens often apparently, your dog might not know which way to turn.
Why care, though? “Natural fluctuations of the Earth’s magnetic field have previously been suggested to disturb orientation in birds, bees and whales; and even to affect vegetative functions and behavior in humans,” say the authors. The study provides “the first clear and simply measurable evidence for influence of geomagnetic field variations on mammal behavior.”
Scientists may need to rethink about the effects magnetic storms
“A discovery of magnetoreception in dogs would open totally new horizons for magnetobiological research.” Dogs already sniff for bombs and detect cancer; perhaps they could be trained as early warning system for earthquakes, which have been tied to shifts in magnetic fields. Biologists and physicians may also need to rethink about the effects “magnetic storms might pose on organisms”–like people.
In other words, hidden inside the circle dance your dog is doing when she’s doo-ing, may be clues to improve our lives. Gives you something to think about while you’re getting that poo bag ready.
Currently under study? Determining if there’s a pattern to when a dog lifts his left or right leg during urination. “Carlson, we have another job for you!”Tweet