A small white dog shaking.

What Does It Mean When a Dog Shakes? Revealed!

Dogs are known for displaying a wide range of behaviors, each with its own set of meanings and implications. One such behavior is shaking, which can be a cause for concern or simply a harmless quirk depending on the context.

If you’ve ever wondered, “what does it mean when a dog shakes,” you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll explore the various reasons why dogs shake and what you can do to help them feel more comfortable.

From physiological factors to emotional triggers, we’ll guide you through the intricacies of dog shaking behavior and provide practical tips for understanding and addressing this common issue.

Key Takeaways

  • Dog shaking can have multiple meanings, from normal behavior to health issues.
  • Common reasons include drying off, getting rid of water or debris, or expressing discomfort.
  • Pay attention to the shaking context and your dog’s overall behavior for proper interpretation.
  • Pay attention to other symptoms and context to identify the cause accurately.
Two small dogs running around.
Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash

What Does It Mean When a Dog Shakes

When a dog shakes, it may be simply drying off or trying to remove water and debris. However, shaking can also indicate health problems or discomfort. Carefully observe the situation, context, and your pet’s behavior to understand the underlying message they’re conveying.

Understanding Dog Shaking Behavior

There could be various reasons why dogs shake or tremble, and it is crucial to understand the underlying cause to ensure proper care. While some reasons might be relatively innocuous, others could indicate a significant health issue. Here are some common causes of dog shaking:

Fear and Anxiety:

Dogs might shake when they feel fearful or anxious, especially in unfamiliar surroundings or during loud noises. It could also occur during social situations, such as meeting new people or dogs. Shaking, in this case, could be accompanied by other signs of distress, such as panting, salivation, and hiding.


Dogs often shake when excited, such as during playtime or anticipating a treat. It is a natural way for them to express their emotions and burn off excess energy. This type of shaking tends to be short-lived and accompanied by other playful behaviors, such as wagging the tail and jumping around.


Dogs might shake as a response to feeling cold. When outside during chilly weather, shaking could be a natural way to warm up and generate heat. Dogs with short hair or thin coats may also shiver during cold weather to regulate their body temperature.


Shaking could be an indication that your dog is experiencing pain or discomfort, especially in cases where the shaking is localized to a specific body part. Dogs might shake their head, for instance, due to an ear infection or shake their legs when experiencing joint pain.

Medical conditions:

Various medical conditions could cause dogs to shake, such as neurological disorders, muscle weakness, and metabolic issues. In some cases, shaking might be a symptom of an underlying health issue, such as seizures. It is crucial to seek veterinary care if the shaking persists, worsens or is accompanied by other symptoms.

It is essential to observe the accompanying behaviors and signs when dogs shake to help understand the cause. For instance, shaking accompanied by hiding and whimpering could indicate fear and anxiety; shaking during playtime could be a sign of excitement, while shaking accompanied by panting and drooling could indicate medical issues.

Physiological Factors and Shaking

In some cases, dog shaking might be a result of physiological factors, including discomfort or pain. In this section, we will explore some situations where dogs may shake uncontrollably, pant excessively, or shake their heads as a response to medical conditions or other discomfort.

Dog Shaking Uncontrollably

Uncontrollable shaking in dogs is a sign of severe discomfort or distress and requires immediate medical attention. If your dog is shaking violently without any apparent reason, it might be experiencing a seizure. Seizures in dogs happen due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain and can cause muscle contractions, tremors, or convulsions.

Other symptoms of seizures might include loss of consciousness, drooling, vomiting, or urinating involuntarily. Seizures can be caused by a range of underlying medical conditions such as epilepsy, brain tumors, infections, or poisoning, and require prompt diagnosis and treatment by a veterinarian.

Dog Shaking and Panting

If your dog is shaking and panting, it might be experiencing pain or discomfort. Shaking and panting are common symptoms associated with injuries or illnesses that cause pain or inflammation. These could include conditions like arthritis, hip dysplasia, or muscle strains. Dogs may also shake and pant due to heat exhaustion or dehydration. It is important to monitor your dog’s behavior and look for other symptoms such as limping, stiffness, or difficulty moving. If you suspect that your dog is in pain, seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Dog Shaking Head

Dogs may shake their heads excessively if they have an ear infection or allergies. Ear infections are common in dogs, and symptoms include shaking of the head, scratching at the ear, and a foul odor coming from the ear. Dogs with allergies may also shake their heads frequently due to itchiness, redness, or swelling in the ear canal. Other indicators of ear problems may include discharge, redness of the ear, or sensitivity to touch. It is important to see a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment of ear infections or allergies.

A Shih Tzu walking down a street,
Photo by Nikolay Tchaouchev on Unsplash

Behavioral and Emotional Causes of Shaking

Dogs can also shake as a way to release tension and manage stress. This behavior is commonly known as “shake off” and is characterized by the dog shaking his entire body, often starting from the head and working his way down to the tail.

This type of shaking can occur after a stressful event such as a loud noise or a physical altercation with another dog. It is a natural response that helps dogs regain their composure and move on from the stressful situation.

Shaking can also be a way for dogs to burn off excess energy and excitement. Some dogs will shake themselves vigorously after a period of inactivity, such as waking up from a nap or being released from a crate. This type of shaking is usually short-lived and not cause for concern.

It is important to note that some dogs may also shake due to underlying behavioral issues such as separation anxiety or fear-based aggression. If your dog’s shaking behavior is persistent or accompanied by other worrisome behaviors, it may be indicative of a behavioral issue that requires professional help.

Decoding Health-Related Shaking

While dog shaking behavior is often harmless, it can also be a symptom of underlying health issues. Here are some common health-related causes of dog shaking:

Health ConditionDescription
SeizuresSeizures can cause involuntary shaking, twitching, and convulsions in dogs. If you suspect your dog is having a seizure, seek veterinary care immediately.
Muscle weaknessConditions like myasthenia gravis or muscular dystrophy can cause muscle weakness and trembling in dogs.
PainDogs experiencing pain from injuries, arthritis, or other health issues may exhibit shaking behavior.
Metabolic disordersDisorders like hypoglycemia, hyperthyroidism, or Addison’s disease can lead to shaking episodes in dogs.

Sometimes, shaking can also be a side effect of medications or treatments. If you suspect that your dog’s shaking behavior is related to a health condition, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment.

When to Seek Veterinary Care:

If you notice that your dog is shaking persistently, uncontrollably, or in an unusual manner, it might be a cause for concern. While some shaking behavior is normal, excessive or abnormal shaking can be an indicator of underlying health issues.

If your dog’s shaking is accompanied by other worrisome symptoms, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, limping, or disorientation, it is best to seek veterinary care immediately. These could be signs of serious medical conditions that require prompt attention and treatment.

Additionally, sudden changes in behavior or personality can also be a red flag. If your dog becomes suddenly aggressive, fearful, or withdrawn, it could be a sign of pain or discomfort. In such cases, it is essential to schedule a veterinary visit to rule out any underlying health problems.

Helping Your Shaking Dog

Seeing your dog in distress can be concerning, but there are ways to help calm a shaking dog. Depending on the underlying cause, different strategies may be effective in addressing the behavior. Here are some practical tips to reduce shaking in your dog:

  • Create a safe and comfortable environment: Make sure your dog has a cozy and secure place to rest and feel relaxed. This may include a comfortable bed, toys, and soothing music or scents.
  • Use positive reinforcement: Encourage calm behavior with rewards such as treats, praise, or playtime. This can reinforce positive associations and build trust between you and your dog.
  • Provide appropriate outlets for energy: Dogs that shake due to excess energy or stress may benefit from physical exercise or mental stimulation. Activities such as walking, playing, or training can help redirect their energy in positive ways.
  • Seek professional help if needed: If your dog’s shaking behavior persists or worsens despite your efforts, it may be time to consult with a veterinarian or a certified animal behaviorist. They can help identify the underlying cause and provide specific treatment or training recommendations.

Remember, every dog is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Be patient and persistent in finding the best solution for your furry friend. Understanding and addressing the underlying cause can make a significant difference in reducing shaking behavior.

A gorgeous shih-poo walking through leaves
Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

Preventing Shaking in Dogs

While it’s not always possible to prevent dog shaking, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of shaking episodes in your furry friend. Here are some preventive measures to consider:

1. Regular exercise

Dogs that are well-exercised and mentally stimulated are less likely to become anxious or restless. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day, such as playing fetch, going for walks, or running together. Don’t forget to provide plenty of toys and puzzles to keep your dog’s mind engaged.

2. Socialization

Proper socialization can help reduce your dog’s stress and anxiety levels. Introduce your pup to different people, animals, and environments from an early age. Consider enrolling in a puppy kindergarten class or hiring a professional trainer to help socialize your dog.

3. Balanced diet

A healthy diet can promote overall wellness and reduce the risk of health problems that can lead to shaking. Choose high-quality dog food that meets your dog’s nutritional needs. Talk to your veterinarian about any dietary supplements that may be helpful for your dog’s specific health needs.

4. Routine veterinary check-ups

Regular visits to the veterinarian can help detect and address medical issues that may be causing your dog’s shaking. Take your pup for annual check-ups and keep up with recommended vaccinations and preventative care.

5. Safe and comfortable environment

Make sure your dog has a comfortable and safe living environment. Provide a cozy bed, plenty of fresh water, and access to natural light and fresh air. Consider using a crate or designated area for your dog to feel secure and calm.

6. Positive reinforcement training

Positive reinforcement techniques can help promote good behaviors and reduce stress in dogs. Avoid using punishment or physical force when training your pup. Instead, use rewards such as treats, praise, and playtime to reinforce desired behaviors.


Dog shaking is a versatile form of communication, and understanding its meaning is vital for responsible pet owners. Sometimes it’s just a routine behavior, like after a bath or a swim, while in other cases, it could be a signal of discomfort or pain.

By being attentive and considering the context, we can ensure the well-being of our canine companions and provide the care they need. Remember, a happy and healthy dog leads to a stronger bond and a more rewarding relationship between you and your four-legged friend. 🐕🐾

Two small dogs playing together.
Photo by Collins Lesulie on Unsplash

FAQs: Common Questions about Dog Shaking

Q: Is it normal for dogs to shake when excited?

A: Yes, shaking can be a normal behavior for dogs when they are excited or happy. It is their way of releasing pent-up energy and expressing joy.

Q: Why does my dog shake after a bath?

A: Dogs may shake after a bath to dry themselves off and remove excess water from their fur. It is also a natural response to the sensation of being wet and can help them feel more comfortable.

Q: What should I do if my dog is shaking uncontrollably?

A: If your dog is shaking uncontrollably, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately. This could be a sign of a serious medical condition that requires urgent attention.

Q: Can anxiety cause a dog to shake?

A: Yes, anxiety is a common cause of shaking in dogs. It is their way of releasing nervous energy and can be a sign that your dog is feeling stressed or overwhelmed. It is important to identify and address the underlying cause of the anxiety to help calm your dog.

Q: Can old age cause dogs to shake?

A: Yes, as dogs age, they may experience tremors or shaking due to natural degeneration of their muscles and nerves. However, shaking can also be a sign of underlying medical conditions, so it is important to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any serious issues.

Q: Is shaking always a sign of a health problem in dogs?

A: No, shaking is not always a sign of a health problem in dogs. It can be a natural and normal behavior in certain situations, such as during play or after a bath. However, if shaking is persistent or accompanied by other symptoms, it is important to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions.


  • Karin S

    Welcome to All About My Small Dog, where my love for small dogs and years of hands-on experience meet your need for trusted information. As a dedicated small dog enthusiast and pet parent, I'm deeply committed to sharing expert insights, reliable advice, and a community of support. Every blog you read here is crafted with the utmost care, guided by my passion and expertise. You can trust that you're in the right place for valuable insights and a warm community that understands the unique joys and challenges of small dog ownership. Together, we'll make sure your small dog's world is filled with love, care, and knowledge.