If you thought dogs could usually find their way home solely because of their keen sense of smell, a new study may intrigue you. Researchers collaborating at the Czech University of Life Sciences and Virginia Tech University tracked the navigation abilities of 27 dogs from over 10 breeds across a period of three years and found that dogs’ sense of direction may have more to do with their sensitivity to the Earth’s magnetic field.
The study analyzed whether the Earth’s “magnetic alignment enhances [the] homing efficiency of hunting dogs.” During the study, the dogs were fitted with a GPS collar and a small action camera and allowed to roam forested areas. After a short period of time, the dogs were called back by their owners (whom they were unable to see) and had to work out how to find them.
According to the new research:
“Our findings clearly show the importance of further research on the role and involvement of magnetic cues in canine navigation. The research suggests that the magnetic field may provide dogs with a ‘universal’ reference frame, which is essential for long-distance navigation and arguably the most important component that is ‘missing’ from our current understanding of dog behavior and cognition.”
So the next time you’re lost and your dog is leading the way, you might just be able to trust his/her sense of direction…