Why Do Dogs Shake Off?

We have all seen it at some point – the famous, majestic shake-off that dogs do. Maybe you saw it as your dog stretched after that nice afternoon nap. It could be you spotted the shake-off as your dog dried off after a dip in your pool.

And contrary to what your brain is replaying right now, it does not actually happen in slow motion. So why do dogs shake off?

The most common reason dogs shake off is to get something off their coat, whether the thing is dust or water. In addition to the numerous innocent reasons why your dog shakes off, there are a few worrying ones that you need to be aware of. One such reason is due to skin allergies.

We shall take a look at all of these and much more so that you can finally understand why your dog likes to shake off every now and then.

Is It Normal For Dogs To Shake Off?

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It is completely normal for dogs to shake off randomly. It is a voluntary action that they make for a number of reasons, including clearing their coats off foreign bodies and complementing a good stretch.

However, it is important that you are able to tell a regular shake-off apart from something more ominous like tremors or even a seizure. Seizures, in particular, can be very dangerous for the dog if not identified and addressed early.

Some of the signs that will let you know you are dealing with a seizure and not your dog’s regular shaking off are the fact that seizures more often than not include some form of compromise to motor function. This could be anything from the sudden loss of strength to stiffness with rhythmic contractions.

Your dog may also let out a loud groan, drool, or lose bowel control.

Shaking off is usually less dramatic than a seizure and will just include a few seconds of your dog shaking its head and torso back and forth. After this shake-off session, your dog will be ready to go back to whatever they were doing, whether it is napping, playing, or drying off.

Why Does My Dog Shake Off Randomly?

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Your dog is most likely going to shake off as a way to get more comfortable both physically and psychologically. Let’s take a deeper dive into some of the reasons why your dog may seek this comfort so that you have a better idea of why your dog shakes off randomly.

To Stretch Out

Dogs sometimes shake it off as a way to finish off a stretching session. The shake-off could also precede the actual stretch.

The shaking gives them their coat the same relief that the actual stretch offers to their muscles and joints.

To Wake Up Fully

Do you know how you sometimes shake your head to wake yourself up when you catch yourself dozing off in the middle of a critical, time-sensitive project? Well, dogs may not have deadlines, but they also use the shake-off technique to reinvigorate themselves.

In these cases, the shaking off will be immediately or soon after they wake up from sleep or a short nap.


If your dog is bored and has an excess amount of energy to work out, they may randomly shake off as a way to entertain themselves.

This may be accompanied by other random behavior like pacing, chasing their own tails, and running around seemingly aimlessly.


Your pooch may also shake off as a way to say hello and express their excitement to see you again. This is very likely to happen with dogs that have very clingy personalities, in which case a quick errand run could seem like an eternity away from them.

To Dry Off

A common and easily-identifiable reason why your dog may shake off randomly is to dry off. Most dogs, even dogs that are comfortable in the water, do not like to get or stay wet.

Therefore, if their coat gets wet, they will immediately shake off to get rid of as much water as possible. This may happen whether the do was fully submerged in water or simply got one paw or ear lobe wet.

To Get Rid Of Foreign Objects On Coat

Finally, your dog could be shaking off to get foreign objects off its coat. This could be anything from dust to leaves that cause irritation to the dog’s skin.

Should I Be Worried If My Dog Is Shaking Off?

For most dogs, shaking off has no negative implications. However, there are some scenarios where you should actually be worried about the habit. Here are some of these situations where shaking off is a sign that things are not ok with your doggy.

Skin Irritation

Skin irritation could be caused by a number of reasons. The most common are allergies, skin infections, and pest infestation.

Sometimes, scratching may not be enough to stop your dog from feeling uncomfortable. You may therefore find them occasionally shaking off to try and ease the widespread irritation.

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Ear Discomfort

If your dog has an ear infection, they may shake it off as a way to get some relief. The shaking off, in this case, will be limited to the head and neck or involve the entire body.

Other telltale signs and symptoms of an ear infection include:

  • Scratching around ear
  • Whining
  • Foul-smelling discharge from the ear
  • Loss of coordination


Dogs that suffer from psychological distress could also shake off to deal with the anxiety. This is common in dogs with phobias towards things like loud sounds, darkness, or strangers. The strange habit of randomly shaking off could also be present in dogs with separation anxiety.

Why Do Dogs Shake Off After Hugs?

There are two possible reasons why your dog shakes off after you give them a hug.

The first possible reason is that they are excited. Dogs are very big on physical contact as a way to express affection and may be very excited to receive that reassurance from you in the form of a hug.

The shaking off, in this case, is because your dog has more energy and excitement than they know what to do with and thus shake to release some tension.

Another reason your dog may shake off after a hug is because the embrace made them uncomfortable in one way or another. Maybe it is your scent that is a bit too strong or too unpleasant for them, and they want to get it off.

Perhaps you hugged them after spending time outside in the rain and got their coat uncomfortably wet. It could also be that the big hug and accompanying petting and rubs ruffled the dog’s coat a bit too much for their comfort, and they are simply shaking everything back into place.

Image from Instagram:@the.wild.cockapoo
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Pete Decker