Internal Compass: This Is How Dogs Find Their Way Home

Dogs may have superpowers: dogs can sense the earth’s magnetic field. It could even help four-legged friends find their way home if they got lost.

Dogs are sensitive to the earth’s magnetic field. Back in 2013, researchers found that dogs navigate on a north-south axis, especially when they are assembling a pile. They showed that dogs are capable of magnetoreception, that is, they can sense the earth’s magnetic field.

And they are not alone in this: other species such as birds, lobsters, turtles, and rainbow trout can do this, but the phenomenon has been much better studied in migratory species such as dogs.

In a recent study, researchers examined the effects of magnetic fields on dogs’ orientation. To do this, the scientists equipped four dogs with GPS trackers and video cameras. One student regularly walked four-legged friends in the forest.

The researchers primarily studied the hunting behavior of animals: when dogs chased prey, they moved an average of 400 meters from the student. To return to it, some followed their own scent trail and reached their companion along the same route.

The rest took a completely new route. Scientists have spoken out on the intelligence case.

Dogs Use the Magnetic Field as an Internal Compass

When they evaluated the dogs’ GPS data, the researchers made an interesting discovery: During the scouting, the dogs at one point turned away and walked about 20 meters on the north-south axis before returning to the student.

To study this phenomenon more closely, the researchers tested 27 hunting dogs over three years. This made it possible to study 223 running routes.

On 170 routes, that is, on three-quarters, the dogs also stopped at some point and ran 20 meters along the north-south axis. As a result, dogs usually took a more direct route to humans. Hynek Burda, one of the study co-authors, suspects that dogs run along this line to get their bearings. “This is the most plausible explanation.”

Research Result is Only Partially Believable

However, there is one difficulty in setting up the experiment: in fact, all other senses would have to be excluded in order to explore the magnetic sense of dogs. Therefore, the researchers want to repeat their experiment soon – with magnets on dog collars. This would disrupt the local magnetic field. If the routes of the dogs looked different, it would be additional evidence that dogs have magnetoreception.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

Leave a Reply


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *