- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
You may have noticed your dog shivering, even when it’s hot outside. You’re probably wondering, why is my dog shaking? Is it fear, nerves, or something else? Certain dogs are more prone to shaking because of the temperature, but sometimes it’s more than that. California behaviorist and trainer Beverly Ulbrich is helping us uncover the main reasons why dogs shake and shiver, and what you should do about it.
Dog Shaking: The Basics
There are two primary causes of dog shaking: the cold and anxiety. Dogs with minimal fur or hair will be more likely to catch a chill than those with heavy coats.
“If you have a dog that doesn’t shed or has no hair, there is no protection from the heat or cold,” Ulbrich says.
Of course, the climate also has something to with it! To check if your dog is cold, just gently feel the inside of their ear.
“Don’t stick your finger all the way in their ear—just touch the underside of the of the ear,” Ulbrich suggests. “If that feels cold to the touch, they’re cold.”
If it’s anxiety, you’ve got a slightly bigger problem on your hands. But how do you know if your dog has anxiety?
“Shaking to release tension is common with dogs with anxiety, and it starts coming down to how well you know your dog,” Ulbrich says. “When it’s nervousness, the shaking is usually continuous—it doesn’t stop. That’s my experience from dealing with thousands of dogs.”
It’s probably best to work with a behaviorist to get to the root of your dog’s anxiety and try to remedy it. Make sure you don’t feed into the anxiety by coddling your pup.
“If it’s an emotional thing that shouldn’t be happening—for example, the dog is afraid of the vet and freaking out at the office, fireworks, etc.—you shouldn’t feed into it by saying, ‘Poor baby!'” Ullrich explains. “If you do that, they’re going to continue to be upset and shake versus, ‘You’re being silly, this is nothing to be afraid of, and I’m going to ignore this behavior.'”
Dog Shivering: When it’s More than the Cold
There are a number of other reasons why a dog may shake or shiver:
- Serious illness—distemper, kidney failure, and even poisoning are common
- Have to go potty
- Old age
If your dog is sick or in pain, it can manifest itself through shaking. Even though it’s a little more rare, a dog can shake with excitement, too.
“Sometimes a dog shakes just because they see a cookie they really want,” Ulbrich adds. “It might be because they have too much energy over something.”
Another often overlooked cause of dog shaking is the urge to potty. A well-trained dog knows he can’t go potty in the house and may get the shakes worrying how to get outside to relieve himself.
“They know they can’t potty inside but they’re stressed not knowing how to get outside or how to indicate it, so they start shaking,” Ulbrich explains. “It’s an emotional upset, then a physical upset, and it gets to ‘what do I do?'”
The Bottom Line
Dog shaking is an issue that can go beyond just being cold. Besides the temperature, it’s usually stress or anxiety—but there are a number of other causes of trembling. It could even help you rule out a potentially dangerous medical situation, so when your dog is shaking a lot, it’s always worth getting checked out.