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Researchers say pooping dogs line up with Earth's magnetic field; Iditarod expert has doubts

Alex DeMarban
Two-time Iditarod runner-up Aliy Zirkle questions whether her dogs note the Earth's magnetic field before they relieve themselves. Loren Holmes photo

Call it the harmonious alignment of pooping dogs.

Or something like that.

A new study suggests Fido’s circling-before-dumping may be less about self defense and more about lining himself up with the Earth’s magnetic field when it’s calm along the north-south axis.

Before you go using your pet as a furry compass during backcountry excursions, the study points out the magnetic field is calm about 20 percent of the time during daylight hours.

To unravel one of life’s great mysteries, European researchers tuned into the Earth’s magnetic field while watching 70 dogs of 37 varieties go Number Two 1,893 times and Number One 5,582 times.

Why dogs line up that way remains an “enigmatic” question, according to the researchers. But magnetic sensitivity is no stranger to the animal kingdom, and the study notes that cattle, deer and red foxes position their bodies taking cues from the magnetic field.

Aliy Zirkle, the second-place finisher two years running in the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, stood outside in her dog lot on Friday and said she’s never noticed a pattern, though she called herself a “poop specialist,” with 49 dogs to look after.

Dogs are just like people with their own quirks and personalities.

“I bet if you did a study of people, you’d probably come up with the same thing. Maybe some college students would be willing to do that study,” she said.

Zirkle’s Iditarod veteran Boondocks, for example, always poops near the house of the former Yukon Quest champion. But Outlaw answers nature’s call anywhere.

“Whether they choose to line up in a cosmic direction or not is probably individual choice,” she said.

Contact Alex DeMarban at alex(at)alaskadispatch.com