It’s interesting how often you hear tall tales of dogs, miraculously making their way home against all odds. It happens often enough to make many people wonder. So much so that Virginia Tech, along with the Czech University of Life Sciences conducted a study on just this. Their findings point towards the possibility of these dogs using the earth’s magnetic field to get their bearings on a direction. This would mean dogs have an instinctual compass rose built right into them!
The study was conducted using GPS collars and an action camera, for each dog. The dogs were let loose for a period of time before being recalled by their respective owners. The findings were split 3 ways, although there was one behavior that every dog exhibited. Each dog would make a pass aligned with the earth’s magnetic North-South axis before setting out to find their masters. It is thought that this helps the dogs get their directional bearing before deciding which path to take when looking for their human counterparts.
This study was conducted over 3 years of research. 27 dogs were used in this study, with more than 10 breeds. Findings showed that 59% of the dogs relied on their keen sense of smell (known as tracking) to find their way back to their owners. While 32% relied on their excellent eyesight (known as scouting) to return to their owners. It was 8% of the dogs that used a mixed approach, using both strategies to obey their master’s call. No matter which approaches the dogs took, each dog started with a walk on the Geomagnetic axis before deciding which way to go.