A group of researchers recently conducted a study on how dogs always find their way home, and the results show that it is because of our four-legged friends’ sensitivity to the Earth’s geomagnetic field.
Researchers from Czech University of Life Sciences and Virginia Tech tracked the navigation abilities of 27 different dogs from 10 breeds in the span of over three years.
The scientists attached a GPS collar and camera mount to each dog and allowed them to walk in a forested area without their leash. After being released, each dog ran deeper into the wood, and were called back by their owners after a certain distance.
Researchers conducted what they called the “compass run.” This is a short dash of approximately 65ft (20m) that was closely tracked with the Earth’s north-south geomagnetic axis.
“It is unlikely that the direct involvement of visual, olfactory or celestial cues can explain the highly stereotyped and consistent north south alignment of the compass run,” wrote the researchers in the summary of their finding in the online journal eLife. “For example, the forested habitat and dense vegetation of the study sites make visual piloting unreliable and, in many cases, not possible.”
According to the scientists, the dogs relied on two particular forms of navigation on their way back. 50% of dogs switched to scent-based navigation which researchers called “tracking,” while the 32% relied on physical landmarks and other visual information called “scouting.”
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