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Tag: swim

Reflections on the dog paddle


Throw a dog who has never gone swimming into a pool and, pretty much instantly, he’ll start moving his four legs in a series of motions we’ve come to call the dog paddle.

Throw a human who has never gone swimming into a pool and — though the possibilities are much higher for helpless flailing about, cussing, drowning, or becoming traumatized for life — he may eventually come to his senses enough to try and work his way back to the side of the pool. He’ll do so not using a butterfly stroke, breast stroke or Australian crawl, but by doing what dogs do.

The dog paddle: It’s seemingly instinctual. It’s primitive. And though we humans mostly outgrow it, it remains sort of the default mode of propelling ourselves through water.

Just how primitive it may be is under investigation by Dr. Frank Fish, a professor of biology at West Chester University who — maybe because of his name, maybe not — has spent most of his career studying how marine mammals swim.

Most recently, he has been studying the swimming motions of dogs, and he has concluded that they are very similar to the motions dogs use in trotting. That explains the  ease with which most dogs can make the transition from land to water — requiring no lessons, and (generally) little coaxing: They basically propel themselves the same way in water as they do on land.

That their stride and strokes are nearly identical is interesting in itself, but Fish thinks it could also help explain how whales and dolphins ended up in the ocean.

Fish subscribes to the theory that marine mammals were intitially four-legged land dwellers who ventured into the water one day (likely dog paddling at first), decided they liked it better there, then evolved into such super swimmers that they no longer needed legs, or, for that matter, land.

underwater dogsFor his research, Fish set up some underwater video cameras and enlisted eight volunteer dogs (including his own) of six different breeds, ranging from Yorkshire terrier to Newfoundland.

He borrowed a swimming pool used to rehabilitate horses at the University of Pennsylvania.

Analyzing the video, Fish and fellow researchers saw that dogs swim much like they run — with diagonal pairs of legs churning in unison, according to Science Daily. Fish presented his findings at the 2014 Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) meeting in Austin.

While there’s plenty of dog research we’d categorize as a silly waste of time, we find all this pretty intriguing.

First, it reminds us that practice makes perfect — to think that long, long ago there might have been a couple of four-legged dolphins who didn’t know how to swim, hesitating at the edge of the water: “I dunno, it looks dangerous … should we go in?”

Second, in an era when we’re increasingly relying on computers to do our thinking for us, it serves as a warning that those muscles we don’t use can disappear. It raises a host of interesting questions about our future, and our past.

Why is it we humans tend to dog paddle in our first encounters with water? Is that some sort of instinctual nod to a past when we got about on four legs, instead of two?

If cavemen had spent more time at the swimming hole, might we homo sapiens have evolved into something more amphibious?

Given that, might mermaids really exist?

It’s kind of inspiring to think there might have been a day when dolphins, the planet’s most graceful swimmers, were total klutzes in the water — that they started off splashing about with some awkward looking dog paddling and progressed to the point where they could actually leap out of the water.

It reminds us that, maybe, anything is possible with enough hard work — even when it comes to behaviors we might think are genetic and therefore unchangeable. Do we sometimes wear our genes too tightly, and allow them to restrict us from leaping into new things, and getting over old ones?

We wish Fish luck in unraveling how four-legged terrestrial forms evolved into no-legged, finned ones. And as long as the dogs involved in his research are having a good time —  given Fish is letting his own dog be used in the study, we assume they are — we have no problem with them helping the professor prove his point.

In other words: Go Fish!

(Top Photo, Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology; bottom photo, from the book Underwater Dogs)

Swimming with the dogs

Baltimore dogs and their humans took to the water today at Riverside Park’s doggie swim — held after the pool’s last day of the season.



 For more photos, see my Facebook album.

Encore: Another dog swim at Riverside Park

Thanks to an extended pool season, dogs will once again have a chance to take a swim at Baltimore’s Riverside Park.

The pool will be open to dogs and their owners from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Labor Day, Monday September 6th.
Riverside Park has for the past three years allowed dogs to jump in the pool after the swim season ends. This summer, the end was supposed to come three weeks ago — and a doggie swim was held — but last minute donations from T. Rowe Price and an anonymous private individual allowed the city to keep the pools open longer. T. Rowe Price put up $117,000, and an unnamed individual donated $300,000.
The entry fee for Monday’s doggie swim is $5 a dog, and owners are welcome to swim with their dogs. 

Buddy system: Labrador and dolphin

On an island off the coast of Ireland, a Labrador retriever and a dolphin have become swimming buddies.

This footage, from a television program (or programme, in this case) called Countryfile, shows the dolphin, named Doogie, and the dog, named Ben, frolicking in the harbor (or harbour).

Tory Island, accessible only by boat, is off the coast of County Donegal. Ben, it’s reported, resides at a hotel on the island and trots down to the water regularly to meet up with Doogie, who, on the Internet at least, is sometimes referred to as Dougie.

Reporter Adam Henson managed to captured the moment of interspecies play.

A good weekend to be a dog in Baltimore


There’s no reason — this weekend of all weekends — for you and the dog to sit around and complain there’s nothing to do.

For starters, there’s tonight’s (5 to 8 p.m.) Paws Fido Fashion Show, the last in a summer long series of themed, dog-friendly cocktail parties at Loews Annapolis Hotel.

Tomorrow at noon, there’s the official grand opening of the Locust Point Dog Park, held in conjunction with the day-long Star Spangled Festival.

On Sunday, just up the road from there, Merritt Athletic Club, 921 E. Fort Ave., will hold its Annual Doggie Swim at 3 p.m. Admission is $5 per dog, and all proceeds go to the Maryland SPCA on Falls Road. Door prizes and vendors will be on hand to make this a fun event for the entire family.

Also Sunday (noon to 4 p.m.)  is the Beagle Bash, sponsored by Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland and held at Countryside Kennels in Owings. Admission is free and you don’t have to be a beagle to attend.

Meanwhile, in Cockeysville, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Pets on Wheels will be holding its annual Dog-a-Thon, which includes a walk, demonstrations, contests, food and entertainment. The event, at Oregon Ridge State Park, raises funds for the non-profit volunteer organization, which provides friendly visits from volunteers and their pets to people living in institutional settings.

For more information on these and other events, visit our Doggie Doings page.

A few final chances to take the dog for a dip

DSC05053As summer fades away, there are only a few chances left to take your dog for a dip.

The 4th annual Pooch Pool Party at Montgomery County’s Wheaton/Glenmont Pool will be Sept. 13 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and registering in advance is suggested. All 275 slots sold out last year. If there’s any space left for this summer’s dip, walk-ins will be allowed.

The Wheaton/Glenmont Pool is at 12621 Dalewood Dr., in Wheaton. The fee is $5 per dog. Dogs must have written proof of current rabies vaccination (a tag does not count). Dogs from Montgomery County must also have a dog license. If your dog doesn’t, police will be selling licenses at the event.

For information call 240-777-6840. To register online click here.

The City of Rockville will hold a Doggie Dip Day, also with a $5 fee,  on Sept. 12 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Rockville Swim and Fitness Center, 355 Martins Lane. For more information call 240-314-8750 or click here.

For Northern Virginia doggie swimming opportunities, go to www.nvrpa.org, and click on “events,” then on “calendar of events,” then click on “next” to get to September. Doggie swims are listed under “see events” for Sept. 12.

News Splash: Pool opens to dogs!


Baltimore’s Riverside Park opened the pool to dogs yesterday, the last day of the swim season. Here’s what happened.