4 min read


Can Dogs See the Earth's Magnetic Field?



4 min read


Can Dogs See the Earth's Magnetic Field?


We know that dogs have incredible senses. Their noses are 10,000x more powerful than ours, they can see well in their dark, and they can even sense an impending storm. The Earth has a special magnetic field that is all around us all the time, and dogs and other primates have the amazing ability to see and sense these fields - it is called magnetoreception.

Although science is not completely certain all animals have this ability, there is a lot of research that suggests dogs indeed have the ability to sense and see these invisible magnetic fields around the Earth.


Signs of a Dog Seeing and Sensing Earth's Magnetic Field

Believe it or not, dogs show very clear signs when they can see and sense the Earth's magnetic field. You may think you would not be able to tell, or that your dog may not react to it at all, but the complete opposite is true. One of the easiest ways you can tell your dog can see these magnetic fields is when they are going to the bathroom outside. 

When scientists first started observing the behaviors of 70 dogs when going to the bathroom, they did not see any pattern of behavior to indicate the magnetic field has anything to do with bathroom habits. However, when they began to look at other factors like position of the sun, time of day, the direction of the wind, etc., this is when they found Earth's magnetic field and a dog's ability to sense this, was revealed. 

When the magnetic fields are calm, dogs will go potty facing the North or South. Therefore, when you take your dog potty, watch their behavior before they go to the bathroom. Your dog will likely run around, pace, prance, sniff the ground and/or the air, stand in the wind, and move around a lot searching for the perfect place to pee or poo. The reason they are doing this is likely due to the magnetic fields they are able to see and sense. 

Body Language

These are some signs you may notice when your dog sees/senses Earth's magnetic field:

  • Staring
  • Alert
  • Head Tilting
  • Pacing
  • Sniffing
  • Spinning

Other Signs

Here are some other signs you might notice when your dog sees/senses Earth's magnetic field:

  • Going Potty In Direction Of Wind
  • Spinning Before Going Potty
  • Searching For A Place To Go Potty

History of Dogs Seeing Earth's Magnetic Field


We have known for a long time that animals such as birds and bats are able to navigate around the Earth so effectively because they can accurately sense the Earth's magnetic fields. Up until relatively recently, magnetoreception has never been studied in primates and other mammals. This new research has begun to confirm that it is likely dogs are able to sense Earth's magnetic field, but may not as precisely and sharply as birds can when they are migrating to the south for the winters. 

There are numerous stories about dogs traveling very long distances to find their owners and their homes when they have gotten lost. It is been a mystery for many years how dogs are able to travel hundreds of miles to find their homes after getting lost. 

Questions like how dogs knew what direction to go, how they knew they were going to the right place, and how they were able to stay on the track were a mystery. But these recent studies suggest it may have been due to the dog's ability to sense Earth's magnetic field and that the dogs were able to know which direction they were moving so they could find their homes. 

Science Behind Dogs Seeing Earth's Magnetic Field


Now that we know it is likely dogs and other mammals are able to see Earth's magnetic fields, how are they actually able to do this? The answer lies in a special molecule found in the dog's eyes. Cryptochromes are molecules that are sensitive to light and can be found in animals, plants, and bacteria. 

When we look at animals, these molecules play a role in the aminal's circadian functions. Cryptochrome 1a is the element found in birds that gives them their ability to sharply sense the magnetic fields on earth. Research now shows that dogs have cryptochrome 1a as well and this is what makes it likely dogs can see these invisible magnetic fields. This special molecule gives the animal the ability to effectively navigate and orient themselves in whatever location they are in.

Cryptochrome 1a is found in the retina of the dog's eye and is related to the dog's sight in how they are able to sense magnetic fields. Scientists believe that cryptochrome 1a is activated by Earth's magnetic fields, which in return allows dogs to see and sense the invisible magnetic fields. This reaction involves a lot of quantum mechanics and complicated scientific material! 

Training Dogs to See Earth's Magnetic Fields


You do not have to train a dog to see the magnetic fields that are present on Earth. This is something they have the ability to do on their own and it is not a learned trait. In fact, your dog is likely not even aware that their ability to sense this magnetic field is special and it does not phase them much. 

Your dog probably thinks you can see it as well and doesn't understand why you keep yanking them around on the leash to hurry up the potty process - to your dog, they are trying to find the proper spot to pee and poo that is in line with the Earth's magnetic field. Therefore, let your dog do their business on their own time and let them find that perfect place to go potty!

If your dog is pacing around a lot, running back and forth in all directions, sniffing the ground and the air, standing in the breeze, etc., this is likely because they are sensing that magnetic field and trying to orient themselves and align themselves with this special magnetic pull. While you are waiting for them to go potty, take the time to observe their behavior and appreciate your dog's fascinating and remarkable ability see so intune with our wonderful planet. 

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Written by a Samoyed lover Kayla Costanzo

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 03/27/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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