Dogs Do This So Efficiently That Engineers Are Trying to Understand Its Physics

Story at-a-glance -

  • It's the "dog days" of summer; have fun with your dog by taking a swim, seeing new sights and playing ball (or with some doggy friends, depending on your dog's personality)
  • Top-heavy breeds, short-muzzled dogs, and those with short legs generally are not built for the water and may have a difficult time swimming
  • Ever been sprayed by the "wet-dog shake?" Dogs shake to dry off so efficiently that washing machine and dryer designers are trying to understand the underlying physics of the movement
  • Many dogs love playing fetch, but not all do so naturally; you may need to teach your dog the finer points of retrieving
  • Both dogs and cats can quickly overheat in warm weather, so be sure all your pets have access to shade, fresh water, and, in extreme temperatures, a cool spot indoors

The "dog days" of summer are here, and your dog may be growing just as tired of the heat as you are. Then again, many dogs (and cats) find summer to be the best time of year. It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it? That... and finding that perfect combination of fun.

In the slideshow above, you can check out a Labrador's guide to having the best summer of all time. Keep reading below for more tips on how to weather the rest of the summer with your furry family members.

A Labrador's Guide to Summer Fun

1. Swim!

Labradors love water, and they've been bred for water work, making them (typically) strong swimmers. Even so, your dog should wear a life jacket, especially if you'll be boating or allowing your dog to swim in open water or a fast-moving river.

If your dog doesn't always respond to commands when you call her, attach a rope to her life jacket so you can pull her to safety if necessary (this is also a good idea if you're letting her swim in a river).

Remember, however, that not all dogs enjoy the water, and some do not do well as swimmers, either. Top-heavy breeds, short-muzzled dogs and those with short legs generally are not built for the water.

And while many small dogs enjoy swimming, they may become easily chilled or frightened. Keep this in mind if you're considering a swim in a pool, lake or other large body of water.

That being said, most dogs will enjoy a wet place to cool off in the backyard, such as a sprinkler or a small kiddie pool that's only partially filled (this way even a small, non-swimming dog can enjoy a good "swim" – with her feet still touching the bottom).

2. Soak a Human

After a good swim, it's time for the wet-dog shake! If you're anywhere nearby, prepare to get a good cooling off yourself, courtesy of your pup. You're probably aware that dogs shake after a swim to help dry off... but did you know they do it so efficiently that washing machine and dryer designers are trying to understand the underlying physics of it?

In a study presented at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics, researchers used high-speed videography along with X-ray cinematography to determine how furry animals shake themselves dry. Some of their intriguing findings include:1

  • The shaking starts at the animal's head, which, due to its ability to twist more, results in "higher amplitude waves" that propagate down the animal's body
  • The body then shakes at the same frequency as the skin, but the skin twists around the body faster than the head and body can move
  • Very furry animals have looser skin, which increases the acceleration of the shake
  • Smaller animals must shake more rapidly than larger animals (and tiny mammals may reach up to 20 g's of acceleration!)
  • Large mammals, such as large dogs (and bears) shake at least as quickly as 4 hertz

3. See a New Sight

Like humans, dogs enjoy experiencing new sights and sounds. This could be as simple as a hike in the woods to taking a new route for your nightly walk. If you're adventurous (and so is your dog), a road trip may even be in order.

If you'll be travelling by vehicle, I do recommend keeping your dog in a crate, as it is by far the safest method of travel with pets. However, if that's not an option, at least use a seat-belt harness (along with a booster seat if your dog is small) that will protect your pet in an accident (as well as from abrupt stops or turns).

And although it's tempting, please do not let your dog stick her head out the window, travel in the back of a pick-up truck or remain unrestrained in the front seat (which is actually a misdemeanor in certain states like Hawaii, Connecticut, and Illinois).

4. Throw a Party with Friends

Does your dog enjoy socializing? If so, invite over a couple of dogs for a play-date, or consider taking a trip to a local dog park. The success of these outings depends on your dog's personality, age and experiences, of course. In general, older dogs prefer playing with dogs they're familiar with, while some dogs find group play overwhelming and stressful.

When introducing your dog to new "friends," do so cautiously at first until you're sure everyone gets along. If you are planning a trip to the dog park, here are 15 safety and etiquette tips to keep in mind.

5. Play Ball

Many Labradors (and dogs of all breeds) love to play fetch. If you're lucky, yours will do so naturally, but don't be surprised if a bit of training is required. Many dogs must learn the concept of playing fetch, but once they do, it can be a rewarding activity for both of you.

Of course, not all dogs like fetch... if yours is one of them, try a different activity like tug-of-war or playing hide-and-seek with her favorite toys.

Frozen Treats for Dogs: The Perfect End to Your Summer Day?

I like to offer frozen treats to my dogs, such as frozen peas, blueberries or cut-up melon, or simply frozen ice cubes made from broth or stock. Many dogs enjoy this cool treat on a summer day, but there are some risks to consider:

  • Frozen treats are a potential choking hazard, so use caution
  • Some dogs become obsessive about eating ice cubes, which can lead to GI disturbances or bloat, especially when combined with exercise
  • Frozen treats can exacerbate dental disease in dogs with weak enamel, and sharp pieces of ice can cause tongue and gum trauma if dogs are aggressive chewers
  • Dogs may experience "brain freeze," just like people (although I'm not aware of any research on this, it's a general consensus brain freeze is certainly possible in dogs); so try to make sure your dog doesn't gulp ice-cold water or treats too fast
  • If your dog is a gulper, aggressive chewer or has OCD-like tendencies, avoiding frozen goodies is probably wise

Remember to Keep Your Pet Safe in the Heat

Both dogs and cats can quickly overheat in warm weather, so be sure all of your pets have access to shade and fresh water. If it's very hot, even this will not be enough and your pet should be allowed access to a cool spot indoors. Do not leave your pet unattended in your vehicle even if it's "not that hot" out – the temperature can quickly rise to deadly levels. If you notice any of the following signs of overheating in your dog, take immediate action and move her to a cool area, preferably with air conditioning.

At a minimum, you should move her to a shady spot. Offer her small amounts of water to drink and watch her carefully. If she is unresponsive to your voice, touch or the sight of you, is unable to stand or is having seizures... or you believe her condition is worsening instead of improving, seek immediate veterinary care.

Heavy panting

Elevated body temperature

Excessive thirst

Weakness, collapse

Glazed eyes

Increased pulse and heartbeat

Vomiting, bloody diarrhea


Bright or dark red tongue, gums

Excessive drooling