By Benjamin Fearnow

WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Dogs are quite particular about where they choose to relieve themselves — not only do they defecate in direction with the north-south axis, but they also are sensitive to slight changes in the Earth’s magnetic field.

A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology finds that a wide range of canines preferred to “excrete with the body being aligned along the north-south axis” under “calm magnetic field conditions.” The nearly 37 breeds of dogs studied were found to completely avoid urination or defecation along an east-west direction.

The study is the first time that magnetic sensitivity was proven in dogs, although previous research has shown that many mammals “spontaneously align their body axis” with Earth’s magnetic field in a diverse range of behavioral contexts.

Examination of 70 dogs over two years – including 1,893 defecations and 5,582 urinations – revealed that dogs who were not leashed or influenced in movement were naturally inclined to relieve themselves in “axial orientation” with the earth’s magnetic field.

The study did not detail exactly why this phenomenon occurs: “It is still enigmatic 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).”

Although dogs are often influenced by their owner’s behavior to choose a spot of relief, the researchers note that the study was “truly blind,” and that observers were not biased in their choice of geomagnetic field variations.

The dogs were found to align themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field regardless of the time of day and other variations in weather.

The researchers note that the study may “open new horizons for biomagnetic research,” specifically, that the Earth’s magnetic field may have greater impact in behavioral response from organisms than considered before.

Benjamin Fearnow