Why Do Dogs Shake?

We all notice our dogs shaking when they get wet, but did you know that there are numerous other reasons why your dog might shake? Discover the reasons behind dog trembling and shaking with our guide.
dog shaking off water
dog shaking off water
dog shaking off water

Dogs seem to be masters at knowing how we’re feeling. They can tell if we’re happy or sad by a simple change in the tone of our voice or an adjustment of our body language. However, we often find it hard to interpret how dogs are feeling and we can feel at a loss as to how we can help them.

One thing in particular that’s difficult to decipher is when your dog trembles or shakes. Dog trembling can be due to numerous factors, including everything from excitement to something more serious such as sickness.

We’ve put together this handy guide to help you discover why do dogs shake and tremble, and why it seems more common in smaller breeds like Chihuahuas.

Why do dogs shake?

Dogs trembling and shaking isn’t uncommon and there are lots of reasons, for example if they’re excited or trying to dry themselves. Often, you need to look at the context to figure out exactly why your dog is shaking.

Shaking off excess water

If your dog has just been for a swim or has gotten wet out on their walk, they’ll shake themselves to get rid of the excess water. In this case, shaking is completely normal and is actually good for your dog as it can help to prevent hypothermia. They can remove up to 70 percent of the water from their fur just by shaking – which is why you’ll end up soaking wet if you’re in the splash zone.

jack russell terrier swimming

Stress or fear

Dogs may also shake due to stress or fear, which is most commonly seen at the vets or when fireworks are going off. Dog trembling may also be paired with signs like whining, whimpering, growling, panting and they may pin their ears back and hide.

If they seem anxious quite often, it’s a good idea to monitor any possible triggers that make them feel that way. Then, if possible, remove these triggers from their lives, or consider enlisting the help of a dog behaviourist. If you need more information on helping a dog with fear or anxiety, take a look at our guide.

Excitement

One of the possible reasons why a dog keep shaking is excitement. Your dog may shake when they’re playing with you, if you’ve just got home and they’re happy to see you or if you’re just about to go for a walk. When dogs shake due to excitement it helps to lower their excess energy and keep them more contained. Most commonly it’s seen in younger dogs as they tend to have weaker impulse control, and it’s usually a good idea to pay less attention to them until they calm down, then reward them with a calm stroke.

Cold

In a similar way to how we shiver when we’re cold, dogs also do this. Some breeds are more sensitive to the cold than others, particularly if they’re smaller or have a thinner coat, as they have less protection from the elements. If the cold really seems to bother them, invest in a coat and maybe even a pair of booties to keep them toasty during the winter.

If your dog seems to be shivering for a long period of time, take them to the vet as it could be a sign that your dog has hypothermia.

Old age

Sometimes dog trembling is due to old age. It’s not unusual for this to occur as they get older, however sometimes too much shaking could be a sign of pain and in particular joint pain. If this is the case, take them to the vet as soon as possible and they will be able to suggest how best to help your dog.

Muscle weakness

Muscle weakness can also be a cause of shaking or trembling. This will usually be displayed as their legs shaking – particularly their rear legs. Generally, this will resolve when they’ve had time to rest, but if this seems to be bothering your dog, take them to your vet and they may suggest exercises to strengthen their muscles, or treatment like massage or hydrotherapy.

Chihuahua shaking

Chihuahua shaking is extremely common and they’re one of the breeds that shake and tremble the most. There are numerous reasons why your chihuahua might shake, but one of the main ones is because of their small size. They usually weigh less than six pounds and are tiny in stature, so they tend to feel the cold more than larger breeds. Additionally, chihuahuas possess a fast metabolism and are high energy, therefore they burn energy faster and lose heater much quicker.

chihuahua dog breed

According to a research project by the University of Sydney in 2013, lighter toy breeds are more excitable and hyperactive, therefore more likely to tremble with excitement. Also, they tend to be more prone to issues that cause shaking such as attachment issues, anxiety and fear.

Other reasons for dog trembling:

  • Sickness – from eating foods that are toxic to dogs or due to medication.
  • Canine distemper – a contagious virus that’s most common in puppies who haven’t yet been vaccinated. Other symptoms include coughing, eye and nose discharge and fever. If you suspect your dog has canine distemper, take them to the vet for treatment.
  • Seizures – your dog may shake, foam at the mouth, collapse or even bite their tongue. Seizures can be treated with medication, so be sure to take your dog to the vet immediately. For more information on dog seizures, read our guide.
  • Generalised terror syndrome – this can display as muscle tremors throughout the body. It mostly occurs in younger dogs and is easily treated.


So now you know some of the possible answers to the question why do dogs shake. If you’d like to find out more about dog health and nutrition, read our article that asks why do dogs sneeze?