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Do Dogs Always Face North to Poop?

Do dogs align with the magnetic field to relieve themselves?

Have you ever heard the adage that dogs always face a certain direction to poop and wondered if it could possibly be true? We went looking for the answer.

Many Animals Align Themselves with Earth's Magnetic Field

All kinds of creatures, from bacteria to vertebrates, can detect Earth's magnetic field and arrange their behavior accordingly. Homing pigeons use it to navigate. Cave salamanders use it to find their way around their home caves. Some turtles use Earth's magnetic field to get to the sea after they hatch in the sand.

Many of these creatures use other input, including sight and scent, to accomplish these things, as well, but their use of the magnetic field is fascinating.

Studies on mice and bats have shown us that some mammals use magnetoreception too. While they both use other methods of finding their way around more heavily, they do use the magnetic field if other input isn't available.

Do Dogs Perform Magnetic Alignment Maneuvers?

So, it's clear lots of Earth's creatures use the magnetic field as part of their everyday life. But do dogs?

Some research* was done to find out. Here are the parameters of the study:

  • 80 dogs from 37 breeds included in the study
  • 1893 instances of defecation were observed
  • 5582 instances of urination were observed

The conclusion of the study was that, when magnetic field conditions were stable, dogs preferred to defecate with their bodies aligned in a north-south manner. When conditions were not stable, this behavior wasn't noticed.

The researchers don't know why dogs would wish to align themselves with the poles when eliminating. But the fact that the behavior was interrupted by fluctuations in the magnetic field interested them, especially because such fluctuations have been suggested to interrupt the behavior of migratory birds, whales, bees, and other animals.

So, while we are left with more questions than answers about why dogs may align with the north-south axis to eliminate, it's certainly interesting behavior.


  1. *Hart, V., Nováková, P., Malkemper, E.P. et al. Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth's magnetic field. Front Zool 10, 80 (2013)."

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