New research sees dogs checking a North-South axis on their way home.
- As dogs navigate, they appear to be using the Earth's magnetic fields.
- 170 dogs orient themselves to north and south as they plot shortcuts back to their people.
- Dogs join the growing number of magnetism-sensitive animals.
Guessing the secrets of canine navigators<p>That dogs have excellent navigational talents is nothing new. The study recalls "messenger dogs" that were relied on during World War I to ferry sensitive communiqués back and forth across battle lines. In addition, of course, hunting dogs, or "scent hounds," have long exhibited the ability to return to their owners' positions, and previous studies have shown that they often devise new return routes, as opposed to simply retracing their steps. How they do this has been a bit mysterious, as the study notes: "Dogs often homed using novel routes and/or shortcuts, ruling out route reversal strategies, and making olfactory tracking and visual piloting unlikely."</p><p>In trying to figure out how dogs do what they do, researchers have divided their methods into three possible modes:</p><ul><li>tracking — following their own scent trail back to their point of origin</li><li>scouting — searching for a new, shorter way back to their point of origin</li><li>visual piloting — using landmarks to find their way back</li></ul><p>Benediktová's research began when she put video cameras and GPS trackers on four dogs, took them out into the forest, and set them loose. As might be expected, they took off in pursuit of some interesting scent. All of the dogs eventually returned. She mapped the collected GPS data, seeing runs of both tracking and scouting.</p><p>However, when she showed her maps to Burda, he noticed something else. Just before scouting their way back, the dogs did something odd: They ran for roughly 20 meters along a precise north-south axis, as if orienting themselves, before returning to Benediktová. Without some form of magnetic sensitivity, this would not be possible.<br></p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUwMjY4OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjg2MDkyNX0.IxUIornhkTGk8aOxMclbByDmKW82FO4O6nXJ9-4Vpko/img.jpg?width=980" id="93a31" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="54d17432f595df655c0b8a8afe084956" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Benediktová, et al
Testing the theory<p>A sample of four dogs is hardly definitive, so student and advisor developed a larger study involving 27 dogs who were taken on several hundred scouting trips over the course of three years. The dogs were typically taken to locales with which they had no familiarity, and the researchers avoided tipping off the canines with any navigational clues including the avoidance of situations in which wind could carry their scent toward the dogs. The researchers also hid after releasing their charges to make sure they weren't visible to the pooches.</p><p>In the end, the researchers documented 223 scouting runs in which the dogs averaged a return to their points of origin of about 1.1 kilometers (around 0.7 miles).</p><p>In 170 of these runs, the dogs did indeed repeat the smaller sample's behavior, running about 20 meters along a north-south axis. Just as intriguingly, it was these dogs who found the fastest, most direct route back. "I'm really quite impressed with the data," biologist Catherine Lohmann of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who was not involved in the study, tells <a href="https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/07/dogs-may-use-earth-s-magnetic-field-take-shortcuts" target="_blank">Science</a>.</p><p>Burda considers the dogs' seeming reliance on their north-south jog to be pretty convincing: "It's the most plausible explanation."</p> <div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="1W7raq4T" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="f1f23d529719339a12114da473a619ca"> <div id="botr_1W7raq4T_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/1W7raq4T-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/1W7raq4T-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/1W7raq4T-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Proving the theory<p>Commenting on the research, dog behaviorist Adam Miklósi at Eötvös Loránd University tells Science, "The problem is that in order to 100% prove the magnetic sense, or any sense, you have to exclude all the others."</p><p>Given the difficulties of doing that, Benediktová and Burda intend to test their hypothesis from the other direction, seeing if they can confuse dogs' magnetnoreception by placing magnets on their collars and repeating the tests — if they no longer do their little north-south jog, a reliance on the Earth's magnetic field would look even more likely. </p>
Admit it, caring for your pet can make you happy too. Science is working on why.
- A study shows that caring for your pets can improve your well-being.
- The researchers found the act of caring provided more improvements than mere companionship.
- These results aren't limited to pets. Plenty of studies show caring for others can improve your well-being.
Self-Determination Theory<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="XikKCzfm" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="09db13714ed0c564ca2c54f7b00d8b2c"> <div id="botr_XikKCzfm_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/XikKCzfm-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/XikKCzfm-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/XikKCzfm-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The authors interpreted these findings in the light of <a href="https://selfdeterminationtheory.org/" target="_blank">Self-Determination Theory</a>, or SDT. A theory of human motivation that focuses on innate drives and needs, it centers around the idea that humans function well when our internal motivations are satisfied and less so when they are not. The key motivations are:</p> <ul><li>Autonomy, defined as a need to be a causal agent.</li> <li>Competence, defined as the need to experience mastery.</li> <li>Relatedness, defined as the need to interact and connect with others as well as the need to experience caring.</li></ul> <p>One possible explanation of the pet effect observed here is that owners are anthropomorphizing their dogs and allowing their owners to perceive tending to a dog's needs as similar to tending to another person's needs. In particular, this is satisfying the need for Relatedness. Whether dogs actually have the same need to connect with others or to be supported so it can "feel free to be its true self" as humans do remains unknown. </p><p>In any case, it does appear that you can satisfy your need to care for something by trying to make your pet happy. Exactly how far this effect can be pushed and if it still works if people aren't anthropomorphizing their pets are areas for future study. </p>
But I don’t own pets, so how does this apply to me?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="XnsnciQP" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="cd72136aae7a6a2a8fd6c0d002af54d4"> <div id="botr_XnsnciQP_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/XnsnciQP-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/XnsnciQP-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/XnsnciQP-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The ideas behind SDT can be applied in many situations, not only ones involving pets. A variety of other studies have shown that providing care for others can improve your well-being, but have focused on what happens when <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315803968_On_the_Benefits_of_Giving_Social_Support_When_Why_and_How_Support_Providers_Gain_by_Caring_for_Others" target="_blank">humans tend to other humans</a>.</p><p>Science has confirmed what many pet owners always knew, taking care of your fur-covered friend is often more of a joy than a chore. This study points to new ways to improve your well-being by interacting with both humans and animals to make everybody feel a little better. </p><p>Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to play with a cat.</p>
Learn where your ancestors are from, the breed of your rescue dog, and if your home is safe with these easy at-home kits.
- There is a lot we can learn from the saliva in our mouths and the air in our homes.
- There are at-home DIY tests for just about everything, but not all of them are as accurate as they claim.
- From revealing the breed of your dog to testing your home for harmful gases, these kits are worth the money.
The dogs' ability to recognise and process human faces surpasses even that of monkeys. This newly-identified brain region may be the reason why.
If you want to know about the special relationship between human and canine you need only watch a dog owner slavishly feed, cuddle and clean up after her furry companion, day after day after day. But is this unique cross-species relationship also reflected at a deeper level, in the workings of the canine brain? A recent study in Learning and Behavior suggests so, finding that highly trained dogs have a dedicated neural area for processing human faces, separate from the area involved in processing the faces of other dogs.
Having a dog may be one way to curb lonelieness.
- A pilot study has found that dogs help socialize those with intellectual disabilities at Australian group homes.
- Previous research finds that pets helps those who use wheelchairs "feel more secure and confident in public."
- People are far more likely to interact with someone with an intellectual disability if they were walking with a dog.
Average (and standard deviations) number of encounters each outing for participants in Group 1 (with a dog) and Group 2 (without a dog; with a dog).
Image source: Living with Disability Research Centre<p>The results strongly suggest that, when dogs are present, people have more social encounters. It's a finding that's emphasized all the more by the subjective observations of the animal handlers:</p><blockquote>"I am noticing an interesting pattern in the outings where there is no dog present. Only shop attendants initiate conversation. Some say 'Hello' to me, but they try not to look at the person with the disability."</blockquote><p>This stands in stark contrast with how someone with an intellectual disability is treated if they do have a dog, say the handlers. What does this augur, then? It suggests there are social benefits to providing a dog to those with intellectual disabilities. On top of this, the findings also partially indict those who would not have interacted with someone with an intellectual disability were it not for the dog. </p><p>If loneliness has a degree of impact on our health, then it's incumbent on us to try and take steps to socialize the most vulnerable.</p>