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.
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)
Posted by John Woestendiek January 16th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, biology, dog paddle, dogs, dolphins, evolution, frank fish, genes, genetics, instinct, land, legs, mammals, marine, motions, movement, nature, research, science, study, swim, swimmers, swimming, water, west chester university, whales
As in, is it OK to walk my dog here?
We found this one – at a park in Saugerties, New York – particularly baffling.
It could, and probably does, mean swimming, dogs and littering are all prohitited. Then again, it could mean there is no swimming, and dogs are allowed.
Then again it could mean swimming dogs are not allowed. Or, one final interpretation, it could mean swimming dogs are allowed, but they shouldn’t litter while they are doing so.
We went with the first interpretation, and moved on.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 18th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, confusing, dog's country, dogs, dogs allowed, dogscountry, english, language, new york, no dogs allowed, no!, park, parks, pets, road trip, saugerties, sign, signage, signs, swimming, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace
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.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 6th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, baltimore, city, closing, dog, dogs, ohmidog!, park, parks, pets, photography, photos, pool, recreation, riverside park, summer, swim, swimming, swimming with dogs
Victor Garcia was walking with his 6-month old Labrador retriever, Ruger, Wednesday afternoon at the Perrine Wayside Dog Park in south Miami-Dade when he threw an object into the park’s man-made lake for the dog to fetch, CBS4 reported
After the dog jumped in, Garcia said, he began acting strangely.
“All of a sudden, as he got closer to the center of the fountain, he started screaming, yelping, bloody murder,” said Garcia.
Garcia said when he ran into the lake to rescue he too was zapped by what felt like electric shocks.
“I just couldn’t pass this wall of electricity and I had to watch my best friend drown right in front of my face, essentially, I mean that dog is my whole entire world to me, he’s the reason I wake up in the morning.”
Garcia didn’t require hospitalization, but his dog was killed.
Park officials say the fountain in the center of the lake was turned off, but apparently it was still sending an electric current into the water. Electricians have removed the fountain to inspect it.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 5th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: current, dade, death, died, dies, dog, dog park, dog parks, dogs, elecgtrocuted, electrical, electricity, fountain, labrador, lake, lakes, miami, perrine wayside, retriever, ruger, safety, shock, south, swimming, victor garcia, zapped
Thanks to an extended pool season, dogs will once again have a chance to take a swim at Baltimore’s Riverside Park.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 2nd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: baltimore, city, dog, doggie swim, dogs, donation, extended, parks, recreation, riverside park, season, swim, swimming, t. rowe price
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.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 28th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, ben, countryfile, dog, dogs, doogie, dougie, harbor, harbour, hotel, interspecies play, ireland, lab, labrador, pets, retriever, swim, swimming, swimming with dolphins, tory island, yellow lab
Breed: German shepherd
Encountered: Poolside, kind of, at the Motel 6 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Backstory: Motel 6′s allow dogs — just not in the pool. So Baby’s owners, spending some time at the motel while between houses, hooked her leash to the gate so she could watch — longingly, it seemed — as her family cooled off in the water.
Baby probably would have been happier inside the fence, but she seemed content to be at least close to her family. She found a shady spot in the mulch, made herself comfortable and, in true German shepherd style, looked on.
(Roadside Encounters is a regular feature of Dog’s Country, the continuing story of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America)
Posted by John Woestendiek August 16th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, dog friendly, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, encounters, greensboro, lodging, motel 6, motels, north carolina, ohmidog!, pool, road trip, roadside, roadside encounters, swimming, travel, traveling with dogs
Ever since we left the highly tolerable climate of Santa Fe, I’ve been hot. Ace has been hot. We exit the car and it’s like getting hit in the face with blow dryer, turned up to its most heated setting.
So even before we visited the ex-cat and pulled out of Waynoka, Oklahoma, I decided — more for my sake than Ace’s — that our next stop would have to be somewhere with a swimming pool.
I got on online and checked for Motel 6′s — our default option — and saw there were half a dozen in the Oklahoma City area, all of which, it seemed, had swimming pools.
When we got there, after a hot and dusty drive, I stopped at the first Motel 6 I came across.
I’m still unsure if it was one of the ones I investigated online. But without a second thought I checked in, put on my trunks and, anticipating a refreshing plunge, went out to hit the pool.
And this is what we found:
I was less than pleased. Ace, on the other hand, who’s not big on pools but has been missing soft green grass during our time in the West, was thrilled. If nothing else, it made for a nice miniature dog park.
It wasn’t the first surprise we’d gotten at a Motel 6. Those we’ve visited included on with a broken pool, one with broken Wi-Fi, one with no batteries in the TV remote, one where I had to make the morning coffee and one, in Dallas, where the room smelled like pee (definitely not ours). A couple of them have been perfect, though. As I see it, at under $40 a night, one shouldn’t expect to many guarantees or amenities, which is good because, other than a tiny bar of soap, one doesn’t get them.
Far more important than amenities, or any temporary malfunction — with the exception of air conditioning — is the fact that Motel 6 always accepts dogs, with few rules, no weight restrictions and no deposit.
Now that’s refreshing.
Posted by John Woestendiek July 26th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ace does america, amenities, animals, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, lodging, motel 6, motels, ohmidog!, oklahoma city, pets, pool closed, pools, road trip, swimming, travel, traveling with dogs
A Labrador retriever died after being left in a car parked outside a Costco in Frederick, Maryland.
A Maltese died after being left in a parked van while his owner went for a swim in a New York park.
A rash of similar cases have been reported across the heat-waved northeast, leading animal advocates to reiterate what they have long said — but apparently not everybody has heard: Dogs should never be left in parked cars, especially not in summer
In the Maryland case, Frederick County Animal Control says the dog was left in a car on Tuesday, as temperatures climbed to 104 degrees, the Washington Post reported. Authorities were notified about the dog, but by the time investigators arrived the dog was dead and the owner of the car was gone. Authorities are still investigating.
Earlier this week, a Bronx man left his Maltese inside his van at FDR State Park in Westchester, while he went for an hour-long swim, the New York Daily News reported.
Someone saw the dog and called park police, but by the time it was moved to the shade, the dog died. The owner of the dog was charged with animal cruelty.
Posted by John Woestendiek July 9th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bronx, car, cars, caution, danger, death, dogs, frederick, health, heat, heat stroke, heat wave, maltese, maryland, new york, news, ohmidog!, park, parked, pets, safety, swimming, temperature, van, warning
A professional diver in Russia is trying to teach his dachshund to scuba dive.
Sergei Gorbunov of Vladivostok, Russia, has equipped his dachshund, Boniface, with a wetsuit and helmet designed to allow him to breathe underwater.
In a recent demonstration, Boniface barked eagerly as Gorbunov stuffed him into a wetsuit, affixed the helmet, then submerged him in the water. The dog emitted a few whines, according to an Associated Press report.
“Underwater, I don’t think he experiences any stress,” Gorbunov said.
Posted by John Woestendiek July 8th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, boniface, dachshund, dive, diving, dog, ohmidog!, pets, russia, scuba, sergei gorbunov, swimming, video, vladivostok, water