The Loh Down On Science

What armadillos and humans have in common will surprise you!

Fish et al., 2014 Soc. for Int. & Comp. Biol. meeting

Do dogs really "dog-paddle"?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

We all remember our early days in the pool, doing the “dog paddle.”  It’s the fun name for the swimming stroke of everything from armadillos and turtles to humans and, well, even dogs.  

To understand how dogs actually swim, meet the aptly named Frank Fish, from West Chester University.  His team studied eight different dogs from six different breeds.  They examined the dogs' movements on land, and also filmed them underwater as they swam. 

They found that when dogs trot, their diagonal legs move together at a pace faster than a walk.  These movements can differ from breed to breed. 

When dogs swim, however, those trotting strokes occur even faster—and with more range of motion.  But unlike on land, this sped-up swimming style is pretty consistent across all breeds. 

The consistency can help us understand what evolutionary adaptations any four-legged land animal has to make, to swim.  It may even help explain how the swimming styles of whales and dolphins evolved. 

As to why dogs hate baths?  More research is needed. 

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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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