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Why Do Dogs Shake Their Toys?

June 5th, 2020

Dogs are domestic animals, yet it still surprises us when we see their primitive characteristics coming through. One of the most primitive characteristics that we can observe our dog displaying is when they shake their toys.

To us, shaking their toys is cute, especially when it is a puppy trying to dominate a toy bigger than he is; but why do dogs shake their toys?

The Dog’s Ancestors

Dogs are descendants of wolves, a carnivorous predator that hunts other animals for food. While dogs are domesticated with breeds that look nothing like their ancestors, dogs still have primitive characteristics that are similar to wolves. These characteristics are often shown when a dog shakes his toy, and these are the reasons why they do it.

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1. Hunting


This is the reason that is most closely related to their ancestors. As wolves have to hunt to find food, they will often kill their prey by shaking them in their mouth. This does not mean that your dog is aggressive or trying to kill their toy. It simply means that they are mimicking the actions that their ancestors use when hunting food.


Additionally, if your dog was released in the wild and required to hunt animals to eat, these instincts would come naturally and appear when shaking the prey.


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2. Boredom/Frustration


Your dog may require attention that he is not getting, resulting in excessive energy and boredom. This can cause your dog to find a toy and shake it. This can happen while you are playing with your dog or this can happen when your dog is by himself.


If you have left your dog for a long period of time during the day, you may return home to find a toy that has been destroyed while you were gone. This is likely due to boredom or frustration from your dog because you were gone.


For this reason, your dog may require additional attention and exercise during the day. Additionally, you may want to give your dog a bone, dental stick, or another type of chew toy that they can chew on while you are gone so that they don’t destroy a toy.


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3. Playing


When your dog shakes his toy while you are playing with him, it is his way of playing back with you. Dogs let us know that they are enjoying the activity by continuing to engage in the activity and essentially “upping the ante” of the game.


This is why your dog likes to play tug-of-war or shake a dog toy that you have just thrown for him to fetch. It is his way of letting you know that he is enjoying the game and wants to continue playing the game.


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4. Dominance


Your dog can show his dominance over a toy by shaking it. This does not mean your dog is aggressive or violent. Dogs have to establish their dominance and they can choose to do this even over an inanimate object like a toy. Dogs enjoy physical activities like wrestling and boxing as they play, so it is not uncommon to see your dog shake and throw his toy while trying to establish a dominance over it.


Innocence or Aggression? What to Look For

While shaking their toys is a common way for dogs to play, it is important to pick up clues in your dog’s behavior to make sure it is innocent rather than aggressive.

To do this, you will need to watch your dog as he engages with the toy.

If your dog is in a playful stance with his back half in the air and his front half against the ground, he is playing. Some dogs also wag their tail when they are playing, which is another clue you can use to identify that your dog is innocently playing with his toy.

Your dog may also pounce around from side-to-side or in a circle around the toy while still maintaining this same posture. These are all signs that your dog is playing with the toy and not behaving violently or aggressively. These signs are innocent and typical with a dog playing with a toy.

If your dog is in a dominant stance with raised hair, growling or showing teeth, and aggressive barking, this can be a sign of aggression or violence within the dog’s behavior. It is important to identify this early in the dog’s life so that you can break the habit and avoid potentially dangerous or deadly consequences.

Consult with a dog trainer to determine what measures you can put into place at home. For serious cases, you can have a dog trainer work with your dog professionally to break the habit.

Teach Your Dog to “Drop It”

Even though shaking is a natural occurrence in dogs, it is important to be mindful of the circumstances that your dog is shaking the toy. If your dog is shaking their toys and you engage in a tug-of-war with him, it is important to remember that you are teaching your dog how to behave. Tug-of-war may be fun with a toy, but it is entirely different when you are trying to pry something out of your dog’s mouth that he shouldn’t have and refuses to let go.

For this reason, it is important to teach your dogs how to drop something that they should not have. You will need to use the same word repetitively and with reoccurring actions so that he learns the command. Using the word “drop” or “drop it” and taking the item from your dog’s mouth will help him understand when it is appropriate to hold a toy and when it is not. Starting this at a young age is the best way to get this command established with your dog.

Conclusion

It is natural for dogs to shake their toys while playing as it mimics hunting, playing, and dominance. Be mindful of any behavior that your dog exhibits during shaking his toys that may resemble aggression, such as raised hair, growling, or aggressive barking. These indicators may be linked to aggression and may require professional help to break.