Doggie do-doos may point the way


Can you tell the compass direction by observing how your dog does a poo?

So, you’re out walking the dog, plastic bag tied to the leash, and sure enough, Fido slows down and circles around a few times before finding the spot to do a poo.

Nothing unusual about that, but our investigative friends at the ABC have been pondering whether dogs have a preference for how they align their bodies when defecating. East-West, North-South or just randomly around the compass?

If you're like most rational people, you've probably filed this alongside such dog behaviours as growling at the doormat, howling at sirens and chasing one's own tail.

But thankfully, researchers from the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague aren't like most rational people and decided to investigate.

They monitored 70 different dogs of 37 breeds making 1,893 bowel motions and 5,582 wee stops over a two-year period.

It turns out dogs may have a strong preference for relieving themselves along a north-south axis. At first, the orientation of the dogs appeared fairly random.

But there can be local variations in the strength and direction of the Earth's magnetic field, which is measured by geometric observatories.

When they excluded days of magnetic instability, they found our canine friends were picking up on some serious electromagnetism.

"Analysis ... of dogs sampled during calm magnetic field conditions revealed a highly significant axial preference for north-south defecation," they wrote in their paper published in Frontiers in Zoology.

According to their data, the dogs showed a strong preference for facing either north or south when relieving themselves, and significantly had an almost complete aversion for aligning their bodies on an east-west axis.

Other animals such as birds are known to be able to detect electromagnetic fields, which they use for navigation, so it's not a huge stretch to presume dogs might also have this capacity.

However, it's unclear what evolutionary benefit there could be for a dog to align themselves north-south while heeding the call of nature.

Still, if you're ever lost in the bush and have your dog with you, you could use this as a way to get your north bearing.

But remember it's magnetic north, and probably not accurate on days of magnetic variability.

So, it's probably best to still use a compass.