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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

Have you ever watched your four-legged friend shake himself from head to paw and wondered why dogs do it? Even when our beloved dogs are not dripping wet, for example, when they come out of a lake? Apart from medical reasons, there are other reasons why some dogs shake their whole body like crazy. Your dog is shaking? Here are some possible reasons:

Dog shakes: Drying wet fur. 

Is your dog shaking after a swim, a heavy downpour while you’re out walking, or your little mucky pup needs a bath? Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal behaviour. 

By jerking his entire body back and forth, your dog’s fur will dry much faster. It’s similar to shaking out a wet towel before hanging it up to make it dry sooner. More than half of the total wetness is lost by shaking from muzzle to tip of tail. 

Dog shakes himself: Occasion grooming.

Sometimes this behaviour can also be observed after brushing. The carefully groomed  fur is brought back into ‘orderly disorder’ by intensive shaking. Even after extensive cuddling, roughhousing and stroking, the wildly tousled and possibly flattened coat is loosened up again by shaking, set upright or simply “put in order” again. 

In addition, dogs get rid of many loose hairs, possible foreign bodies (dirt, dust, sand, soil, etc.) and also some unwelcome “roommates” (such as bugs, parasites, etc.) in the fur by shaking intensively.  

If your pet likes to roll around in the meadow or the like, or likes to wallow in the mud, he may also get completely soaked afterwards. 

Good to know: Sometimes this behaviour can be observed more frequently during the change of coat season.

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Dog shakes after getting up.

Even if your dog shakes himself thoroughly after a nap or a long rest, this is perfectly normal behaviour. This gets the circulation going and loosens the muscles. At the same time, the body warms up.

In addition to shaking the entire body, many dogs stretch completely after waking up. With these doga (dog yoga) exercises, the dog’s body switches from rest mode to active mode. 

Shaking as a sign of well-being.

By the way, some dogs also really enjoy it 😊. Dogs are individuals, with different preferences and, of course, needs. Some love to roll around in tall grass, for some there’s nothing better than snuggling under your duvet. Some like to shake themselves because they simply enjoy it. 

Just think back to your own childhood. Who didn’t love spinning in circles until you felt sick or tumbling down a slope? In a way, you can compare it to that. It may not make much sense to some, but it brings great joy to children at this time. 

Shaking to relieve stress and tension.

Ever heard of shaking to relieve stress? When we humans are under a lot of tension, some therapists recommend shaking off stress. Through movement, emotions are released more easily and trauma is less likely to take hold. In dogs, this behaviour is still deeply ingrained.

You can recognise it when they are under tension and/or stress. For example, if your pet shakes immediately after an encounter with another dog, it may be a sign to you that he was not at all comfortable in that interaction. This is also referred to as a “skip action“. 

Observe your darling, can you also recognise this behaviour in your darling? Are there moments when your dog often – without any apparent reason, such as wetness or the like – shakes himself completely? It is possible that your furry friend does not feel comfortable in some situations. If this happens often, your dog may need your support. 

Long-term stress has been shown to have a negative impact on health, both mental and physical. If you have questions about behaviour, you can always contact a professional dog trainer.

My dog is shaking. When to go to the vet?

So in many situations, shaking is quite normal behaviour. However, when should a vet be consulted?

Permanent shaking: If your dog can’t stop shaking, it’s possible that he’s being tormented by some pests, such as mites, fleas and the like. In the case of a parasite infestation, it is usually common for the shaking to get stronger and stronger and is usually accompanied by scratching. Allergy, which can cause severe itching, can also cause severe shaking.

Individual parts of the body are shaken: For example, if your dog only shakes his head, this may be a sign that he is suffering from an ear infection or similar, or that he has foreign bodies and parasites (awns, ear mites, etc.) in his ears. If your dog is only shaking his paw, it is possible that he has kicked something.

Pain: If dogs have pain in certain places, they may try to shake off the pain. 

Special case: Dog hardly shakes at all: In this case, your furry friend may be avoiding shaking his body because of back pain or something similar. Sometimes only small areas twitch, such as where the dog has back pain.

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Dogs shake themselves several times a day, for various reasons that are usually normal and harmless. However, if the dog cannot get out of shaking at all and/or only shakes individual parts of the body, this may be an indication that the four-legged friend should be examined by a veterinarian or behavioural therapist.