Why Do Dogs Shake?


Our canine friends are really a totally open book in their body language.  They are consistent, they do not lie or conceal, and they are loyal to the end, with no ulterior motives.  A dog’s actions and demeanor are pretty easy to interpret, as long as you know what to look like.  Dogs use much simpler body language than we do, and many signals can mean multiple things, even at the same time!  This can easily confuse us dog owners, as we operate in a totally different way socially from dogs, although much more complex.  Reading a dog is much, much easier than reading a human, it is just different.  We cannot apply the same strategies and knowledge to dog body language and behavior that we do to humans.  So why do dogs shake?  Read on friends, and we will explore the subject!

Why Do Dogs Shake?The most common and well-known reason a dog will shake its body is to get rid of moisture.  We always see them do this after they get wet, or go swimming, as it is just simply the easiest and most effective way for them to dry off and get comfortable again.  Dogs also shake or shiver when they are uncomfortably cold, just like humans, so if you are in a cold environment this is a sure fire sign your dog would like to warm up a little bit.  Dogs do not just shake because they are cold or wet, however, shaking also is an indicator of an unsettled emotion, specifically nervousness, frustration, or anxiety; which can happen when you have another strange dog in the house, or when you take them to an unfamiliar place they have never been before. Sometimes, a dog will even shake with extreme joy, like when you are about to give them their favorite treat.  Or if a dog feels upset or distressed about something, they may “shake it off” and move on.

Dogs Shake Based on Instinct

Dogs also have a very old instinct from their wolf days, the instinct to keep clean and specifically shake off bugs.  Although, since we have domesticated dogs, they get all types of nice stuff to sleep on, in their history this was not always so.  Dogs used to sleep on the dirt, where vermin and little critters loved to crawl into their nice fluffy warm fur, so when your dog wakes up in the morning and shakes itself off, it is actually practicing a tradition as old as dogs themselves.  Even if they are on a nice comfortable bed all night.

Other Reasons Dogs May Shake

A dog can also shake for health reasons although it is usually not hypothermia, so if your dog continually and excessively shakes, you should probably take them to the vet.  Shaking in this way is most common in elderly dogs when their back limbs start to give out and it becomes harder for them to support themselves.  And lastly, some dogs will shake when they are having a dream!  Many of our dogs can be very animated in their sleep, physically moving to catch that perfect dream cat.  They will run, shake, and even bark.  Man, some day I would love to experience one of my dog’s dreams!