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Why Do Dogs Shake Their Toys Hard?

Learn why dogs grab and shake their toys hard.

Does your dog ever grab a toy in her teeth and then shake it super hard? Some people are alarmed by that behavior, wondering if it means their dog may be mean. Others just think it's really cute.

Why do dogs shake their toys like that?

Shaking Imitates Hunting

When a dog in the wild catches prey, she grabs it by the back of the neck and shakes hard to kill it. A dog shaking a toy or a tug rope is imitating that killing action.

Of course, the domestication of dogs has progressed far enough that most of them don't hunt and kill prey anymore. But that shaking motion is still instinctual. Only now, it's just part of the way they play.

Is There a Problem with Dogs Shaking Toys?

In general, there is no issue with a dog shaking a toy or tug rope. However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you have a dog that engages in that behavior:

  • If your dog has or is prone to neck problems, shaking behavior should be discouraged.
  • After shaking the toy, if your dog tears it up and stuffing comes out, make sure to pick it up so your dog doesn't eat it. Eating stuffing and fabric can cause a life-threatening GI obstruction.
  • Puppies and dogs known to tear up soft toys shouldn't be allowed to play with and shake them unsupervised.

Most of the time, there's no worry that your dog may be mean or attack people if they engage in shaking behavior with their toys. However, if your dog ever growls at a person, lays their ears back against the top of their head, raises the hair on their hackles, or otherwise engages in behavior that may indicate aggression toward people, contact your veterinarian right away.

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