Why Do Dogs Shake? 9 Reasons Why

why is my dog shaking

The commands “paw” and “shake” are fun ones to teach dogs because they’re simple and cute, plus they make it look like your dog just closed a major business deal. But if your pup is shaking other body parts (or even her entire body), she’s sending a very different message and could be telling a you a number of different things. If you’ve ever wondered why dogs shake, keep reading.

1. Your dog might be stressed

A strong full-body shake may be your dog’s way of relieving stress. According to the American Kennel Club, dogs shake to literally get rid of the tension built up during stressful or agitating experiences. Think a minor scuff with a playmate at the dog park or getting her temperature taken at the vet’s office. If this is what you witness, let it happen and give her some room! She’ll be in better spirits in no time.

2. Your dog might need space

Single shakes, either short and crisp or long and luxurious, that come just after a cuddle session could mean your dog is one of many canines who aren’t fond of hugs. We know, we know. This is…devastating news. As reported by The Guardian, a study conducted at the University of British Columbia by canine expert Stanley Coren, Ph.D., found roughly 80 percent of dogs show outward signs of stress while being embraced. Instinctually, dogs like to know they can run away from danger. A tight hug can start to feel claustrophobic or unsafe. Ever received a hug you weren’t in the mood for? Yeah. If you see some shaking post-cuddle, it could mean “Give me space,” and we recommend respecting that.

3. Your dog might not want to be picked up

Louise Glazebrook, a professional dog trainer featured in The Guardian article about dog hugs, warns against the impulse to pick up small breeds all the time. Sure, some pups love it! But others despise it and prefer all fours on the ground. A small dog who trembles when you reach toward her or shakes after you put her down probably isn’t keen on being carried.

4. Your dog might be cold

Tiny dogs also get cold pretty quickly, and a constant shake from a seven-pound Italian greyhound usually means she’s freezing. Wrap her in a sweater and make sure your home is well heated in the winter to curb this involuntary shivering.

5. Your dog is trying to dry off

If you haven’t experienced a wet dog shaking its whole body to dry off, you haven’t lived (or aren’t a dog owner). It’s impressive. It’s also been said to remove anywhere from 20 percent and 70 percent of the water on your dog. Jealous? Us too. We advise letting her shake a few times before going at her with a towel.

6. Your dog’s ears might hurt

A solid sign of a canine ear infection is a constant head shake. The habit can develop slowly (a few shakes here and there) and progress until your pup shakes her head frequently to ease the discomfort. It’s best to see a vet, especially if her ears turn reddish in color or begin to swell

7. Your dog might be scared

The Fourth of July is like Halloween for dogs: lots of people trying to scare them to death. If your dog hates fireworks and hears them in the distance, she may begin shaking out of fear. The same thing happens to people after a terrifying experience; our body pumps adrenaline through our veins in case we need to fight or flee. It can cause intense trembling, both before and after a stressful experience. Find ways to comfort your dog if she grows anxious during a certain situation or around specific people.

8. Your dog might want attention

On the other hand, dog lover extraordinaire Cesar Millan warns against accidentally turning into Pavlov when it comes to coddling or comforting your pup. If you rush to her side as soon as she starts shaking or shivering, she may start doing this on the regular to get attention. You’ve inadvertently conditioned her to associate “shake” with “attention.” This is tricky, but it’s usually easy to tell when a dog is genuinely scared versus gaming the system.

9. Your dog might need to visit the vet

If none of these ring true to your dog’s particular shaky behavior, it’s time to hit up the vet. All dogs are unique and respond to stimuli, exercise, food and medicine differently. An expert opinion is always your best bet. Deal?

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Sarah Ashley

Freelance Writer

Sarah Ashley is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has covered pets for PureWow for six years and tackles everything from dog training tips to the best litter boxes. Her...
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