How to use your dog as a compass and find magnetic northI am a pro dog walker in Melbourne (inner west). I do this because I love dogs and love walking them off lead.
I know a lot of dogs don't get adequate walks, and that there are a remarkable number of disparaging sayings about dogs that humans have made which flies in the face of dogs being called man's best friend.
One of the most remarkable things dogs teach us is 'living in the moment' and that they still take much of their behaviour cues from their ancestors the wolves.
We often see a 'strange' behaviour in the context of human behaviour and think that dogs are weird, but I posit that they are magical creatures that we have barely touched the surface about.
The surface and mystique of how deep their understanding of this world really is and what they can teach us.
Why dogs face north to pooFirstly did you know that they do? Did you know that this was only discovered and reported widely in 'dog circles' in only 2014?
So this is what the research found. When you dog goes to poo in an unfamiliar place and is not distracted, they will turn in circles (sampling the earth's magnetic field) and they will align their head up in the direction of magnetic north.
Just let that sink in for a while !
A dogs brain is so in touch with its surroundings, they can always get a bearing where they are on the earth by sensing the earth's magnetic field. Other creatures like birds etc can feel the magnetic field, but this is man's best friend, our companion animal that we often leave locked up in the back yard for long periods of time.
We don't yet know why they do this, and clearly its some form of primitive purpose, but there are a few amendments to this dog compass story.
For instance when a dog is at home and knows its surroundings it is not so fussed as to point north.
When a dog is under high voltage power lines or any other man made apparatus that messes with the earth's magnetic field, they may not point with such accuracy.
When a dog is scared or it doesn't trust its surroundings (other dogs or humans it wants to keep an eye on) it will often poo with its back to you looking over its shoulder. This is a position where a dog is most vulnerable (to be dominated by another dog for instance) so in pointing away from the harm source it can bid a fast retreat.
As the scientists haven't got a grasp on this yet there is little point in me telling you the complete reason they point north to poo.
But just thought you might like to know, that all that circling for a poo now makes sense and the final direction that they point (if you are both lost) might help you out on a cloudy day when you can't tell where the sun's position is for east / west directions. Noting of course that at different times of the year, the further away from the equator the more pronounced the inclination of the sun is to the vertical. This makes it hard to always get a clear direction of east. But unless your are on a loadstone deposit, your dog might save your life with is uncanny ability to find north !