Why Do Dogs Shake Their Fur?

If you're wondering why dogs shake their fur, most likely you have noticed your dog or some other dog perform this behavior. As with many other doggy behaviors, the reason why dogs shake their fur will vary based on context.

 There are several explanations for why dogs shake their and it's quite interesting learning more about them. While dogs often shake their fur when getting up upon waking up, or when their fur is wet, there's more into it when it happens in other specific circumstances.

Dogs Shaking Their Fur When Wet 

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A dog shaking his fur is following his instincts, just as a mom would tell a child to take off wet clothing.

This a classic cliche' that is often represented in fun cartoons or on newspaper comic strips. Rover is given a bath, and after he's done, he shakes his fur and everybody gets a complimentary shower. Those familiar with dog behavior are often ready for it, as they brace themselves and cover their faces to protect themselves from the ubiquitous droplets flinging off. 

Dogs surely know when their fur is wet and instinctively will shake their fur to effectively dry themselves, but why would nature equip dogs with this ability? Turns out, it's all about energy conservation.

In nature, should furry mammals get wet in cold weather, they will face hypothermia if they cannot quickly dry themselves. By oscillated their bodies, using a mechanism similar to shivering, these furry animals can effectively dry themselves within minutes, explain Andrew K.Dickerson, Zachary G.Mills and David L.Hu in a study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 

This effective shake therefore conserves energy that would otherwise have to be spent in carrying a heavier coat and generating enough heat to allow it to evaporate. To just have an idea, think that in order for a wet 60-pound dog to carry an extra pound of wet fur and allow it to evaporate, it would take about 20 percent of his daily caloric intake!

So next time Rover heads your way and thanks you for giving him a bath by giving you a shower, don't get irritated! Instead, marvel at Mother Nature's engineering at best and perhaps next time, make sure you arm yourself with an "antishake towel" and towel dry your dog before he has a chance to shake.

Did you know? Dogs don't shake their whole bodies all at once. Researchers have found that the shaking starts high up on the body, and works itself down to the dog's toes finally ending at the tail. 

Dog shaking when getting up
Dog shaking when getting up

Dogs Shaking Their Fur When They Get Up

Your know the drill well. After sleeping, your dog gets up, stretches himself takes a few steps and then slows down to shake his fur starting from his head all the way up to the tail. What gives? 

Just as with shaking their fur when wet, this behavior is linked to a dog's ancient past. In this case though, it's a matter of cleanliness. 

Before being allowed on sofas, couches and beds, dogs were sleeping on grass, dirt and other natural surfaces. After their fur has made contact with the elements, it's a dog's instinct to scroll their fur in an attempt to remove any awns, dust and debris from their coats.

Dogs Shaking Their Fur From Irritation

Dogs don't have opposable thumbs and they can't effectively scratch themselves all over the body. Indeed, there are several places they cannot reach. So if they feel something amiss on their fur, they'll likely try to shake the sensation off.

 Turns out, a dog's hair follicles are supplied with nerves responsible for sending sensory messages to the brain to elicit fur shaking when something doesn't feel right and this can happen in different scenarios.

A common cliche' is a dog who shakes after being groomed which often upsets owners who worked so hard on fixing their hairdos. We must remember though that back in time, dogs didn't have groomers, so the grooming we subject them to can sometimes make their fur feel weird. It's therefore not usual for your dog to shake his fur after a grooming session, after cleaning his ears, or to get rid of that silly bow you placed on his head. 

Other triggers for fur shaking are the presence of pesky parasites, skin irritations or itchy ears. See your vet if your dog shakes his fur or head repeatedly and you cannot find a reasonable culprit. 

It could be your dog has something bothersome going on such as ear infections or even bad teeth, suggests veterinarian Rick Huneke at Washington University School of Medicine.

Dogs Shaking Their Fur to "Shake Off" Emotions

Interestingly, shaking the fur isn't always about something going on with a dog's fur, it could signal something going on in a dog's mind as well. If you notice your dog shaking his fur after he is pet from a stranger or after he encounters a grumpy dog, his fur shaking may be his way of giving a sort of sigh of relief.

 It's almost as if he was saying "Phew... that was close!" The shake off in this case is therefore the dog's way to dog release stress and tension.

So keep an eye on your dog when he shakes his fur and keep tabs on what happened right prior to that. If your dog had more than a squabble with another dog though, make sure to check him thoroughly to make sure he's OK. Some dogs other than shaking off tension may shake their fur after they get hurt, whether they bumped their head against something or they got nipped by another dog.

Did you know? It's estimated that the average dog is capable of removing about 70 percent of the water from his fur in four seconds, quite remarkable, don't you think?

Now That You Know...

As seen, dogs shake their fur for various reasons. Here are some tips based on your dog's underlying reason for fur shaking. 

  • Get properly dressed. When giving your dog a bath, consider wearing old clothes your don't mind getting wet and full of fur, or even better, wear your bathing suit if weather permits. 
  • Be ready with the towel. As soon as you are done giving your dog a bath, prevent shaking by readily towel drying him before he has a chance to even think about shaking.
  • Go on a walk. After towel drying your dog, snap the leash on and go on a walk. This will help your dog dry up and prevents your dog from rolling in puddles or or mud. 
  • If your dog shakes his fur often when he's not wet, consider having him checked over by a vet. Perhaps he has skin allergies, irritation or some pesky parasites. 
  • If your dog routinely shakes his fur after certain interactions, identify what may cause your dog to feel uncomfortable and then try to work on making the interaction less intimidating. Perhaps your dog doesn't like people bending down to pet him, or patting him over the head. 
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