DIRECTIONAL PREFERENCES IN DOGS: LATERALITY AND “PULL OF THE NORTH”

Could the Earth’s magnetic field affect the lateralities of dogs? This question was posed by scientists from the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague and the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. The results of their research were published by the prestigious scientific journal PLOS ONE on 25 September 2017.

The researchers tested 25 dogs from 14 different breeds in 31 locations in the Czech Republic and Germany. Testing took place under various conditions for several months. The dogs chose between two identical bowls of the same food that were placed to the left and right of the dogs that were rotated so that they would gradually be placed in all of the compass directions. The dogs always spontaneously picked one of them. Some dogs showed themselves as right-lateral in the experiment, other as left- lateral, but most of them proved to be ambilateral, i.e. they did not prefer the left or the right side.

A surprising finding was the so-called “pull of the north”. When choosing from two bowls in the north and east, small and medium-sized breeds, females and elderly dogs preferred the “northern” bowl, regardless of whether they were “right-lateral” or “left-lateral”. Adversely, young dogs and males preferred the selection of dishes according to their laterality, regardless of the placement of the dishes according to the compass direction.

“The non-randomness of this dog behaviour significantly fits into the “magnetic” effect of animals that scientists around the world describe as magnetic sensitivity or magnetic reception,” says member of the research team Ing. MgA. Jana Adámková.

Laterality is a non-random and predictable ability of animals to favour the left or right side of the body during various activities (the analogy of “left-handedness - right-handedness” in humans). It is intensively studied and described in humans, and this widespread phenomenon is probably also in animals. With regard to dogs, there are a number of experiments in which dogs are successfully tested for the motor laterality ability, i.e. the use of their left or right paws during the tested activities. However, scientists have also noticed the assumed ability of animals to perceive the Earth’s magnetic field (so-called magnetic reception).