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Dung shui: Do dogs line up with the earth’s axis to do their business?

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I’ve often wondered why my dog Ace circles before he poops. He’ll go into a semi-squat, then, like a lazy Susan, make two or three revolutions before unloading.

Could it be he has an “inner compass” and is getting himself in line with the earth’s axis?

A new study suggests that canines line up along magnetic field lines to do their business. How they do that remains a mystery; why they do that perhaps an even bigger one.

Maybe they know something we don’t — we being so far removed from the natural world that we mindlessly let our toilets dictate the direction we face while defecating.

Who knows how much better off our digestive health might be, how much better aligned our chakras might be, if we all voided while facing directly north or south?

Whether there are benefits to parallel pooping — for humans or dogs — are not matters the Czech and German researchers addressed in their paper, recently published in Frontiers in Zoology.

Instead, the research focused on whether dogs – like cattle, deer and foxes – line up parallel to the earth’s axis when they defecate.

Over a two-year period, the researchers observed 70 dogs, of 37 different breeds, as they went on outings, and duly logged each urination (5,582) and defecation (1,893), as well as the direction the dogs were facing while doing the deed.

They say the results lend credence to the suggestion that dogs and other animals have some sort of internal mechanism that helps guide them in matters of pooping, and likely much more — at least when the earth’s magnetic field is stable.

The earth’s magnetic field is stable is only about 20 percent of the time during daylight, they note. But when looking only at those periods, dogs off leash seemed to prefer to poop with their bodies oriented along the north-south axis, the study said — facing either directly north or south. As for peeing, female dogs did that while aligned with the north-south axis, while male dogs preferred a northwest heading.

The researchers say that if dogs are capable of “magnetoreception,” it would open “totally new horizons for magnetobiological research.”

As for why the dogs do it in the first place, the authors said, “An answer may lie in the biological meaning of the behavior: If dogs would use a visual … magnetic map to aid general orientation in space, as has been proposed for rodents, they might have the need to center/calibrate the map now and then with regard to landmarks or a magnetic reference …We might think of this the same way as a human is stopping during a hike to read a map.”

In other words, maybe dogs use pooping as an opportunity to take stock, get their bearings, plot their next step and better understand their place in the universe.

Humans sometimes do that on the toilet, too, I’d venture, especially when they run out of magazines to read.

And while most humans don’t put much thought into what direction they’re facing during the act, or whether they’re aligned with the earth’s axis, there are  some who advise taking that under consideration.

In a cursory — highly cursory — search of the Internet, we found a website called Vaastu NaresH, which suggests a water closet that faces north or south will lead to increased health and happiness. Another feng shui-related website advised one’s entire bathroom face north — not so much to align with the earth’s axis, but because that’s where the malevolent spirits are.

(I’m not sure the malevolent spirits appreciate being honored that way, whether they might prefer that you, instead of offering a full view, shut the door and turn on the exhaust fan. Then again, they are malevolent.)

As for dogs, I’ve never noticed any consistent alignment when it comes to defecating. My dog Ace seems to be an omni-directional pooper, basing his stance on whether the sun is in his eyes, whether there’s something interesting to watch off in the distance in some particular direction, how urgent the situation is, or simply what point he’s at in his urgent and dervish-like pre-poop spin when nature finally calls.

Then again, what do I know? My toilet faces southeast.

Comments

Comment from KateH
Time January 6, 2014 at 4:55 pm

This study is highly suspect, especially as it relates to urinating. I’m a dog walker and it seems to matter far more whether the dog is ‘right-legged’ or left-legged’ and which direction they are facing as the approach whatever they might pee on or next to. Try coming upon a favorite place from a different direction and see if the dog turns around to lift their preferred leg or not. My observations show they will, more often than not. As for pooping, I think the prevailing wind, sunlight, and the slope (if any) of the ground will have a greater effect on which way a dog faces. But, I’m only a dog walker who has to pick up the poop, so I’m really more interested in how solid it is, rather than what direction it falls. :)

Comment from Smoketoomuch
Time January 7, 2014 at 10:40 am

Like Ace, Haley (a 7 year old, 12 pound Pom) also spins as she readies for the drop (and always in a clockwise direction) though I’ve never noticed in what direction she winds up facing. She also stamps her right rear leg as she defecates, which seems as though it’s some kind of pumping motion (at least in her mind). Then she kicks her rear legs with gusto and seems to always be filled with a new burst of energy afterwards.
She also seems to have a few favorite areas in which to go. Sometimes rushing (pulling me) to get to that particular spot.
Also, it seems to me that her preference is to do her business elsewhere, rather than in her own back yard, which she only does if she has to.

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