Where's North? Watch a dog poop. Comments?

Hot off the preprints:
*Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field *

Frontiers in Zoology, 2013, 10:80
Any confirmation or analysis by the TM?

My dog is doing it wrong. Or else I am observing it wrong.

I haven’t heard of this specifically with respect to dogs, but I have heard of the concept before. IIRC, the effect was first noticed in cows. As pilots would fly over ranches (to spray fields, etc) they noticed that cows tended to line up along the earth’s magnetic field lines. Eventually researchers found that bones in the cow’s skulls contained magnetite, which gave them a “magnetic sense” of sorts.

Similar structures exist in many other animals. In fact, it is one of many senses that homing pigeons use to navigate (though it’s not the only one - homing pigeons be complicated little birdies).

Humans even have this structure, though there’s a fair amount of controversy over whether ours functions in any meaningful way. Some researchers have claimed to have been able to get students to accurately determine their direction. Other researchers have had difficulty reproducing these studies, though. One study I read about had students blindfolded and placed inside of a van. As long as they were blindfolded, they could accurately determine which direction they were facing. If they were not blindfolded, however, their brains seemed to ignore any magnetic sense that they might have had and instead relied on their sense of sight to determine which direction they were facing. If our magnetic sense functions at all, it functions fairly poorly, and is easily overwhelmed by other senses.

Google things like magnetite and ethmoid bone and you’ll find lots of info.

The wikipedia article about the ethmoid bone doesn’t have much to say about it (it’s only briefly mentioned) but it will at least show you where your ethmoid bone is, in case you were wondering and didn’t know.


I guess if you want to try it yourself, make sure you close your eyes before you spin around and try to poop facing north.

In the study they align themselves north-south. Whether they are facing north or south is still random. You only have a 50% chance of them facing north. I’d stick to using your compass.

I wonder if it’s breed-dependent – do Carolina Dogs and Catahoula Leopard Dogs face south while Alaskan Malamutes face north? Of course, Miniature Poodles stick their noses in the air when pooping.

I suspect that for the rest of my life I will now be aware of which way a dog is facing when he poops. My street runs north and south and we have dog walkers all day long going buy. It does appear they face north or south when they poop but I haven’t observed dogs on a east west facing street yet.

There are so many potential confounding factors here that I can’t imagine how they controlled for them. Maybe they’re responding to magnetism… but maybe they’re responding to the direction of the Sun, or to prevailing winds, or to the direction of the routes they usually walk. Or any number of other directional cues one might imagine.

Are you saying that paper is not good Science?!?

My dog shows near zero correlation to direction, although with maybe a slight bias for east-west, since that’s orientation of the long side of the area he’s allowed to go.

I just started a file on my dog’s shitting direction. I’ll do the experiment for a few days, and report back. Let’s see what happens.

In all seriousness…good for you! The world would be a better place if this was most people’s response to hearing something novel and questionable.

My dogs face any which way when they go. Upon closer examination looking at all the piles as a whole(connect the dots type deal) they form the shape of an arrow pointing North.


This has got to be a joke.

Stable vs. unstable magnetic fields? What the …?

So sometimes they line up. Sometimes they don’t. When they don’t, it’s because the local magnetic field was unstable.

Right. Or maybe the Moon was in the 7th house.

Something’s unstable, I don’t think it’s the magnetic field.

The ones that face south didn’t get anything from Santa the previous year.

With this story in the news lately, today I paid particular attention to my dog while she pooped her morning poop. She was facing south. I will continue my diligent observations, and also report back.

That’s what I love about this place. If I talked like that with anybody else I know, people would sloooowly move away from me on the bench…

I think I’m going to sloooowly move away from this thread. :smiley:

(I guess that’s not really physically possible, is it?) :stuck_out_tongue:

Crap! :smack:
Curiosity got the better of me, so I clicked on the link provided by Leo Bloom and after a cursory perusal of the paper I’ve come to a preliminary conclusion, along with a question or two.
Conclusion: A not insignificant amount of time and energy was put into recording and compiling all of the information, contained therein.
Questions: WHO paid for it? And WHY? :confused:

Taking a closer look at the paper, some of the same folks are involved in this one.

In other words, this line of inquiry, i.e. magneto-sensing of animals, seems to be the focus area for these guys. And since they largely hand-waved away the inability of other groups to replicate their results with cows, it’s not unreasonable to question their impartiality. Extraordinary claims and all that.

That their followup is in a low impact factor journal is not a good sign. They might have realized they haven’t controlled for confounding factors nearly as well as they claim in the pre-print.