The wet dog shake is nothing new, and we've all enjoyed watching it (preferably from a distance!) But what is new is that recently scientists and engineers have taken an interest in this iconic dog activity. Why? It turns out that the wet dog shake embodies unique physical motions that could help in creating technological advances in how we clean sensitive, hard to reach instruments.
High speed cameras are being used to study the wet dog shake. Researchers from Georgia Tech have determined that dogs can shake off about 70% of the water from their saturated fur in about four seconds. The main reason for this is their loose-hanging skin. While a dog's spine can only rotate about 30 degrees in either direction, the loose-hanging skin of the typical canine can swing a full 90 degrees each way. The result is three times the velocity, three times the amplitude and nine times the centrifugal force of just shaking the backbone alone.
Scientists believe that dogs evolved to have loose skin in part because of the way it helps them dry off quickly. Wet fur causes a drop in body temperature, and it requires a lot of energy for a dog to reheat itself. Without the ability to shake off most of the water right away, as much as 20% of the daily dog's caloric intake would be depleted helping the dog dry and reheat.
Researchers believe that the information gleaned from the wet dog shake could have many practical applications. It could lead to more efficient cleaning and drying processes for sensitive instruments such as solar panels, the insides of electronic devices, optical devices and even equipment in outer space.
So the next time your mutt does the wet dog shake (video) right next to you, try not to get too annoyed. He's helping us more than you realized!