Caitlin UltimoBehavior / Pet Facts

Why Do Dogs Shake?

Like any dog owner, you’ve probably found yourself trying to explain your dog’s wacky behaviors, like rolling around in the grass or chasing his tail, or maybe you’ve found yourself wondering, “Why does my dog shake?” Whether he is trying to shake water off after a bath or trembling in fear, dog shaking may be caused by a variety of reasons. Irith Bloom, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, CPDT-KSA, VSPDT, KPA CTP, CBATI, VSDTA, faculty and Director of Training at The Sophisticated Dog in West Los Angeles, CA shares some reasons behind this dog behavior; while most aren’t a cause for worry, there are times that dog shivering or dog shaking may indicate a larger problem.

Dog Shivering: Why Do Dogs Shake and Tremble?

He is cold. “If the temperature outside is cold, or even just colder than usual, and your dog is shaking, consider putting a coat on the dog,” says Bloom. Though small dogs are more likely to be affected by temperature change than larger dogs, a jacket such as the Zack & Zoey Nor’easter Dog Blanket Coat can keep any pooch, big or small, warm on chilly evenings or windy fall walks. The Ultra Paws Fleece Lined Reflective Comfort Coat for Dogs is a great option for snowy conditions and winter weather, and pairs great with Ethical Pet Fashion Lookin’ Good Fleece Boots to help keep your dog warm.

He is nervous or scared. “If your dog gets nervous during thunderstorms, he may begin to shiver as soon as he senses that a storm is coming—and dogs can detect storms at a greater distance than most humans,” explains Bloom. Though dog shivering may be a strong indication of some upcoming rainfall, it isn’t so great for your dog, and it isn’t easy for you either! The ThunderShirt Anxiety & Calming Solution for Dogs wraps around your dog to apply gentle, comforting pressure by hugging his body. VetriScience Composure Behavioral Health Bite-Sized Dog Chews are also a great supplement if your dog experiences occasional, or event-caused fear or anxiety, such as stormy weather.

He is reacting to someone new in your home. Whether you are bringing a new animal over or having a dinner party at your home, dog shivering or trembling may be caused by fear and hesitation or over-excitement when guests visit. Richard’s Organics Pet Calm can help calm short-term dog shaking and is best used prior to interaction to help soothe your pup. “If your dog trembles whenever a certain person comes into your home, or around other dogs, your dog may be fearful, or your dog may be overly excited about that person,” says Bloom. “Watch your dog carefully to see if he avoids the person or dog, or instead rushes up to them happily.” If you notice that your dog, instead, chooses to avoid the guest, it is best to keep them separated, if possible.

Should your resident dog still be showing signs of fear and you are working to introduce a new pet to your home, consider working with a certified dog trainer or certified dog behavior consultant that can help ease your dog and new addition through the transition.

 He is excited. If you notice dog shaking whenever you come home, your dog sees their four-legged best friend, or you are getting ready to set down the food dish, chances are that your dog is just plain ol’ excited! When this happens, try Vet’s Best Comfort Calm Soft Chews Dog Supplement, which can be a great tool for calming dog shivering.

He’s getting ready to hunt. Bloom notes that if your dog is shaking in the presence of animals or other household pets that may be considered prey your dog may be wanting to chase or hunt the animal, so supervise closely to ensure everyone’s safety.

He may need to see a vet, and quick! If none of the above seem to quite describe your pup, and you are still noticing dog shivering where his entire body is trembling for more than a few seconds, it may be a symptom of a medical emergency. “If your dog suddenly begins to tremble for an extended period, even though he does not normally tremble very much, is not cold, and nothing exciting or scary is going on, this could be a sign of a serious medical issue,” warns Bloom. “Call your veterinarian immediately, just in case.”

Still wondering, “Why do dogs shake?” Or better yet, maybe you want to know, “Why does my dog shake?” While dog shivering usually is subtle and occurs longer than a few seconds, you’ll almost always notice your dog shaking after a bath, or if he gets his ears wet. The following are the main reasons for actual rotational shaking of your entire dog’s body.

Dog Shaking: Why Does My Dog Shake His Head or Entire Body?

He is trying to dry himself. If your dog just got a bath, or he’s hopping out of the pool after a cooldown, chances are that he’s just trying to shake off the water from his fur. Have no fear—he shouldn’t need to do this more than once or twice each time he gets wet—but be careful not to get in his splash zone!

He is wanting to release tension or excitement. Similar to how people will sometimes jump around or jiggle their hands to shake off stress, dogs will sometimes shake after a stressful or exciting encounter, like when two dogs meet on leash, says Bloom, “After the sniffing ends and the dogs walk away from each other, it’s pretty common to see one or both of the dogs shake off.”

Similarly, dogs may shake during or after dog play to release the excitement that remains (even once their energy’s gone). During play, it can be a polite way for one dog to ask the other to pause the game for a moment, explains Bloom, but as soon as he’s ready, it’s back to playtime!

He just got hugged, rubbed and loved on. Sometimes we like to cuddle our dogs. Okay, so it’s all the time, but most dogs don’t love the squeeze-you-till-you-pop hugs, especially not by strangers, so if a dog shakes after receiving one, he may be letting you know that he’d prefer affection in the form of a belly rub.

 His ears may need a little extra attention. So, we’ve covered dog shivering, and dog shaking, you may still be wondering, “Why does my dog shake his head?” If your dog is shaking his head, or even his upper body, there is a chance that his ears are bothering him. All dogs shake their head occasionally, but if you are consistently noticing it and you notice other symptoms such as a slight deposit under the flaps of his ears or a strong smell, he may have an ear infection. If you suspect that your dog has an ear infection, consult your veterinarian. Regular dog ear care and cleaning helps prevent infections, and Zymox Otic Pet Ear Treatment with Hydrocortisone will help make sure that your dog’s ears stay clean and healthy.

Because dogs can’t communicate with us using words, it’s important for us to understand their body language to listen to what they want to tell us. If you are still noticing irregular dog shaking or dog shivering, consult a professional dog behavior consultant or trainer.

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