MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: Why do some dogs sometimes shake their heads vigorously after waking up?

Area: Zoology
Posted By: Rick Huneke, D.V.M./M.P.H. Faculty, Division of Comparative Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine
Date: Tue Jul 8 08:50:20 1997
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 868042833.Zo

Dear John:

Domesticated dogs are interesting in that their behavior sometimes reflects 
the behavior of their wild counterparts.  These behaviors appear to be 
ingrained and may have no purpose in our house pets.  An example is the 
circling behavior that some dogs display before they lay down.  In the 
wild, this action serves to flatten the grass before the dog rests.  The 
best this may do for our domesticated friends is to flatten the carpet.  

My best guess for the reason for the shaking behavior would be to again 
relate it to the wild canines.  Shaking would probably be helpful in 
eliminating fleas and other parasites that accumulate on the dog while it 
is resting. The typical dog shake begins at the head and works its way down 
the body ending at the tail.  

If your dogs are constantly shaking their head, it could indicate a medical 
problem.  Ear infections and sometimes bad teeth can cause head shaking.  
Take your dog to see its veterinarian.  

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