How fast should a large dog shake, if a large dog could shake dry?


Have you ever wondered what the optimal shaking frequency is for a dog that is trying to dry its fur by shaking itself?

… yeah, me either.

But a couple of physicists have thought long and hard about this and have created a mathematical model that allows one to solve to find the optimal oscillation frequency for doggy drying:

“Dickerson and co filmed a number of dogs shaking their fur and used the images to measure the period of oscillation of the dogs’ skin. For a labrador retriever, this turns out to be 4.3 Hz.

They then created a simple mathematical model of what’s going on. They reasoned that the water is bound to the dog by surface tension between the liquid and the hair. When the dog shakes, centripetal forces pull the water away. So for the water to be ejected from the fur, the centripetal force has to exceed the surface tension.

This model leads to an interesting prediction. If the animal has a radius R, the shaking frequency must scale with R^0.5. That makes sense, smaller animals will need to oscillate faster to generate forces large enough to dry themselves.

To find out whether that applies in nature, Dickerson and pals studied films of various animals of different sizes. They found that a mouse shakes at 27 Hz, a cat at about 6 Hz while a bear shakes at 4Hz. ‘Shake frequencies asymptotically approach 4Hz as animals grow in size,’ they conclude.”

Read the full article here.

Turns out there’s a bit of a problem with the model. The oscillation doesn’t scale as the square root of the radius of the dog, it scales as the radius to the 3/4th’s power. At least that’s what the observational data is showing. So clearly the model will need some refining.

So… now you know.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. My favorite part of this article is that they actually did the experiment… I wonder if they did that with with the Evening Gown research as well?

  2. I agree — the author of the latter article admits at the end that his analysis has of necessity thus far been limited to purely theoretical means:

    There are several reasons why the properties discussed in this paper have never been determined. For one, there is a scarcity of these beams for experimental investigation. Many females have been asked to volunteer for experiments along these lines in the interest of science, but unfortunately, no cooperation was encountered. There is also the difficulty of the investigator having the strength of mind to ascertain purely the scientific facts. Meanwhile, trial and error and shrewd guesses will have to be used by the engineer in the design of strapless evening gowns until thorough investigations can be made.

Comments are closed.