Dear Doctor: Shake-Out


Q. My dog does a full-body shake-out several times throughout the day. Could it be a sign of a neurological problem?

Maye Oliver
Los Gatos, California

A. Dear Ms. Oliver,

The answer is in your question. Because your dog shakes her entire body rather than just her head, the movement is most likely behavioral rather than neurological. Some dogs simply like to regroup with that gesture.

For instance, a dog may break off a play tussle with another dog, engage in a full-body shake-out, and then seek a water bowl or quiet place to rest. It may be that she has  shaken off something she felt became unpleasant (perhaps she got nipped). Similarly, she may shake out if you push her over on the couch to give yourself more room.

In other cases, a shake-out may simply be a dog’s way of transitioning from one activity to another without any emotion tied to it. Whatever the reason, it’s nothing to worry about.

If your dog keeps shaking just her head, on the other hand, it could be a neurological problem, ear infection, or other issue and warrants a doctor’s visit.


  1. Experience tells me a shake-out is a dog’s way of returning to stoic mode after getting a taste of what he yearns for. It’s like saying, “that was too good to be true, such a long awaited pleasure I have paradoxical sorrow for all the time I had to wait to get it. I shake it off like I would shake off an injury.” (Ive read it is a common adaptation in species not to show hurt because then the pack will begin culling the weak and start picking on you.)

    • Yes- My 9 year old black lab did just that and it was very expensive to have it fixed- surgery and now she has a smaller wrinkled ear. Make sure there is no underlying infection and get it treated.

  2. Since our domesticated dogs are no longer pack animals like wolves I agree that it is just a “regrouping” or lets move to something else action. My two boxers do it every morning when waking and then after I come down to greet them. And after a “boxing” and raucous chasing play session together. My English Bulldog will also do it but not as often. Seems totally natural.

  3. l think the shake-out is like a “reboot”…. a transition from one state to another, whether physical, mental or emotional. My dog does this several times a day. My girl does a cute full body “shimmy” when she greets me when l return from being gone


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