Does Your Dog Point North When Pooping?

Photo: Amina Khan/LA Times

Photo: Amina Khan/LA Times

If you find yourself in need of a compass, you may not need to look further than your dog. Years of research by German and Czech scientists has shown that when dogs defecate, they tend to align themselves along a north-south axis, and they prefer to face north.

Although this might seem like a unique phenomenon, it's actually quite common among other species, including birds, bees, and certain types of mammals.

The researchers aren't sure whether or not dogs do this consciously, or whether it's a more primal, instinctual reaction to Earth's magnetic field. When the magnetic field is unstable, which happens during events like a solar storm, the dog's pattern becomes much more unpredictable.

So why do our four-legged friends practice this strange behavior with such routine? One of the co-authors of the study believes that this may be related to scent-marking and a dog's desire to "store" various locations in order to create a mental map of his usual territory, and to help him learn his way around unfamiliar areas.

The research is continuing with an analysis of behavior based on breed, age, sex, and other characteristics to see if they have any effect.

As for now, we may now all look at our pooping dogs with a bit more curiosity.

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