Why Does My Dog Shake When He’s Not Wet?

By helloBARK!
Updated on 22 April 2021
Expert Content

Have you noticed that your dog shakes even when he isn’t wet?

We’re all used to seeing dogs shaking off water after a bath inside the home or in the garden.

However, you may have noticed that your dog shakes a lot when you’re about to leave the home.

This could be a sign of anxiety and stress about your impending departure.

In a bid to learn more, we spoke to six experts to find out why dogs shake even when they’re not wet.

Overcome With Excitement

Amber LaRock, Licensed Vet Tech And Veterinary Consultant At CatPet.club

There are a few different reasons why our furry friends may shake when they are not wet. Ranging from full body shaking to minor trembling, there are often a few possible explanations.

• Some dogs will shake or tremble when they are overcome with excitement. It can be challenging for a dog to contain their happiness, causing a dog to tremble when trying to compose themselves. If your dog is always shaking in the moments following an activity they love, they may just be excited.

• Many dogs will shake when they are anxious. Dogs may tremble when they are at the vet’s office, in the car, or any other potentially stressful activity. This is common in all types of canine friends, but is a well-known behavior in smaller breeds.

• Shaking can be a sign of pain in our canine friends. Dogs can experience discomfort due to a number of ailments, ranging from abdominal pain to sudden injuries. If your dog is experiencing any other changes of behavior along with their shaking, it’s time to contact your veterinarian.

Need To Decompress

Aiden Taylor, Dog Expert And Founder Of FurDooz

Shaking can be part of a dog’s morning routine to help wake up and work out the body, similarly to stretching out.

However, if the dog does it outside this routine, it signifies that they need to vent out or decompress – or simply (and less dramatically), that they are overwhelmed with something. Typically, it will happen after an unpleasant encounter with another dog, or in the middle of a training session.

Even though it happens in borderline cases and situations, it’s nothing to worry about. It’s merely a sign that your dog is letting the stress out instead of burying it inside, which would lead to frustration.

Response To Fear

Nicholas DeRoma, Consultant, Veterinary Technologist And CanineBehavior Specialist At Catpet.club

A dog shaking when not wet is often considered a frenetic behavior in canine behavior. Frenetic behaviors are frenzied, fast, and often anxiety-driven behaviors, although there are many contexts in which they may occur.

This type of behavior (wet-shaking) commonly occurs due to stress in response to fear or anxiety.
By wet-shaking when not wet, your dog is trying to communicate that he is currently or was just stressed by something. Other behaviors that may be exhibited simultaneously within the timeframe of the wet-shake include lip-licking, panting, averting gaze, and pacing.

Respectively, all of these behaviors are associated with fear, anxiety or stress.

Beagle shaking at the park (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Beagle shaking at the park (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Displacement Behaviour

Charlotte Bryan, Experienced Dog Behaviour Expert

This is one of several behaviours that a dog displays when they are attempting to deflect frustration, uncertainty, anxiety or another form of “stress”.

Stress in dogs is an emotional response to a stimulus or trigger arising from a dog having conflicting emotions towards that stimulus, or being unsure of what to do in that particular situation.

For instance, you have visitors in your home and your dog “wants” to go up and say hello but they are nervous of what might happen if they approach.

These conflicting emotions are stressful for dogs and when dogs get stressed, they begin to display behaviours that are normal but appear to be “out of context” or seem “out of place” in regards to the situation that dog is in.

For example, once your visitors are inside your home, your dog starts yawning and stretching. This is a way for dogs to relieve stress without actually doing the thing they “want” to do (i.e. greeting the visitors).

These are called Displacement Behaviours and can indicate stress and anxiety in our dogs. Common Displacement Behaviours include chewing their paws, licking their lips, yawning, stretching and shaking their fur as if they’ve just been for a swim and their fur is all wet – which is the behaviour you are observing.

Sign Of Infection

Dr Sara Ochoa, Veterinary Consultant For Doglab.com

Many dogs will shake when they just get up from a nap. This is their way of fixing their hair. They do not have hands to get their hair out of their face and usually will shake just like they got out of the bath even though they did not.

They may also shake when there is something on them. They may have just rolled in grass or sand and they are shaking to get the excess off of their fur.

They can also shake their head because of an infection in their ears. Many times shaking is nothing to be worried about but if your dog seems to be shaking a little more than normal, it would be best for your dog to see your vet just to make sure that there is nothing wrong.

Get Rid Of Bugs And Parasites

Crystal Health, DVM And Co-founder of OurHonor.org

This behavior comes from their excitement about the possibility for a new adventure. I see it frequently when I have a patient. After they get their exam, or vaccinations, they will shake it off. This relieves stress just like a human taking a deep breath and saying phew! it’s over.

Dogs also shake off after sleeping. Even though they may have been sleeping in their nice comfy bed, their ancestors slept on the ground where bugs and parasites would crawl onto their body. Shaking off after waking up was developed as a way to rid their bodies of these bugs and parasites.

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