Why Do Dogs Shake Themselves?

by Jae Allen, Demand Media
    Dogs commonly shake when their coats are wet.

    Dogs commonly shake when their coats are wet.

    Dogs tend to have a whole lotta shaking going on. When your hound shakes itself, this may be a habit, a functional behavior or a symptom. If your dog experiences uncontrolled shaking, seek veterinary advice.

    Wet Dog Shake

    Many dogs love swimming, and you'll notice them shaking themselves when they get out of the water. This is an excellent way for the dog to dry off, though also a good way for bystanders to get wet. Short-haired dogs usually dry off quicker than long-haired breeds. Dogs with double-layered coats have a top layer of fur that holds more water than the undercoat. Some breeds, for example, the Puli, have coats that grow naturally into dreadlocks, which draw the water away from the dog's skin and prevent the dog's body from becoming chilled. Most dogs shake themselves a few time after a bath.

    Irritation

    Dogs often shake if their skin is irritated or itchy. Unlike humans, dogs cannot always reach to scratch any itchy or ticklish areas of their bodies. A dachshund, for example, cannot reach any area along its long back with a paw. So, you might see a dog shaking from side to side as a way of trying to stop itchiness. Other options for dogs with irritated skin include rolling on the floor or scratching against furniture. You might notice that your dog gets itchy skin, and shakes its body, after the application of topical tick preventive solution.

    Ear Issues

    If your dog persistently shakes its head and ears, this could be a sign of itchiness or infection in one or both ears. Dogs with long ears that hang low near the ground are more prone to ear infections. A standing dog may shake its whole body as a way of trying to stop itching or irritation in the ears. Check your dog's ears to see whether any foreign object, for example, a grass seed or piece of straw, has become lodged in the ear. Your dog may be shaking in an attempt to dislodge a foreign object. Other possible causes of ear irritation include parasites.

    Tension or Temperature

    Dogs may shake as a way of relieving tension. If a dog is feeling nervous or uncomfortable in a situation, it might shake the whole body as a way of shaking out tension. This behavior also may function as a means of getting attention from other dogs or people. You can make your dog shake itself if you rub its fur along the spine in the opposite direction to its growth. Dogs also commonly shake themselves as a way to warm up in cold temperatures.

    About the Author

    Jae Allen has been a writer since 1999, with articles published in "The Hub," "Innocent Words" and "Rhythm." She has worked as a medical writer, paralegal, veterinary assistant, stage manager, session musician, ghostwriter and university professor. Allen specializes in travel, health/fitness, animals and other topics.

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