Shake doggie shake: Why your dog shakes toys

Have you ever noticed how your dog grabs and toy, chomps down on it and really gives it a good shake?  Not just a little shake either, a great big head wagging shake back and forth.  Our family noticed it the other day while playing outside my West Highland White Terrier.  It seems that Jack really loves to shake his toys.  This isn’t the first time.  He grabs a toy, old or new, and shakes his head back and forth.  We laugh but this weekend, my daughters wanted to know, “Mommy why does Jack shake his toys?” So I decided to find out.

Most official research indicates that dogs are descendants of the wolf.  Although dogs are domesticated creatures they still have many of the predatory and protective tendencies that they had when wild.  I am sure you have noticed the stalking, pouncing, chasing and tugging that your dog does and enjoys. These are among many other wild tendencies that dogs carry with them even when domesticated.

Shaking their toy is one of those tendencies. It’s actually called “worrying.”   Wild dogs and wolves use worrying as one method of killing their prey.  They bite down on the animal and vigorously shake it back and forth and in smaller animals it breaks their spine.   It is apparently especially strong in Terriers, as they are smaller dogs and when bread and used for hunting where trained to use this technique to help in killing smaller animal prey.

However, your dog shaking his toy may not be all due to genetics.  Maybe you dog is inviting you to come play with him. Maybe your dog just loves the sound that the toy makes when shaken.  Sure, for Jack it may be part instinctual, but I also know he really does turn into a real clown when he hears the sounds that come from certain toys in the household, including the kid’s toys.

There are a few concerns about this tendency.  First, if your dog is not trained or un-socialized it may grab a small animal like a cat or other small pets your family may own and kill it by shaking it.  It’s just instinct; it doesn’t know not to shake it. Make sure to use a muzzle or leash especially when training or exposing your dog to smaller household creatures.

Shaking is a perfectly normal behavior for your dog and may even be healthy.  Play releases endorphins in your dog which make them happy.  After all you purchase toys for your children and for yourself because they make you happy why not go pick up some fun toys for your dog?  Funnily enough watching your dog play makes you happy too.  I know my family laughs and loves it.

So, I guess we were telling the truth when with our larger dog, Bud, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, would shake his toys and we would laugh and say, “Bud what are you trying to do make sure it’s dead?”

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