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The Root of the Behavior
Many dogs, and particularly Terriers, exhibit extremely high pain tolerances, and as such, give their owners very little evidence that they are uncomfortable or in physical distress. A dog who is shaking may very well be in pain, even a lot of pain. Why do dogs hide their pain? Weakness in the wild made a dog a target for predators. Because of this, dogs would go to great lengths to disguise any sign of discomfort. But pain generally manifests itself in some manner in the body, and in canines, it is through shaking. If your Border Terrier is shaking frequently and this behavior is out of character for him, it may mean a visit to your veterinarian is in order to rule out any illness, injury, or disease resulting in shaking. Some dogs also shake as a response to fear. This is generally not the case for Border Terriers who are highly valued for their spunk and courageous spirit. However, some dogs do develop fears to certain stimuli, and one way they express their unease is through shaking. Some common triggers for dogs can include fireworks, thunderstorms, or even change in a dog's regular routine.
Encouraging the Behavior
The most common explanation for shaking in Terriers, in general, is excitement. Terriers are exceptionally tightly wound little dogs. Energy is continually coursing through their veins, and this energy must find a place to go. Often, it is expended through what is known as excitement shaking. You may have seen this in your Border Terrier when you pick up his leash or even your car keys. Those sounds are enough to rouse even the most stoic of Terriers from slumber to an alert, wagging presence at your feet. When dogs are anticipating something wonderful to come, they can't help but wag their tails. Some become so stimulated that they wag their whole bodies, and yes, shake too! Of course, it is important to consider the obvious as well. Some Border Terriers may shake to remove excess debris or water from their coats. Rain sitting on the surface of the coat would become heavy and uncomfortable for your dog. This extra encumbrance would also potentially slow down a dog on the move. Shaking it off then rubbing up against your furniture is your dog's version of a towel and hairdryer.
Still other Border Terriers may shake as a response to mental stimulation. Their efforts at concentration produce such an effect on their nervous system that it results in trembling. This is not of any concern. It can be a very normal reaction in any Terrier. Other theories purport that Border Terriers may shake if enraged or even cold. However, there is one medical condition that is unique to Border Terriers which could provide the root cause for continuous shaking behavior in your dog. Recent genetic research has uncovered a disease known as Shaking Puppy Syndrome. This serious genetic ailment of the brain is typically first evidenced during puppyhood. Border Terrier puppies suffering with SPS experience shaking of the back legs and instability on their feet. There are a number of breeds affected by this heartbreaking condition. Border Terriers are but one of them. Recently, a DNA test has been formulated to properly test any potential breeding dog for the presence of the genes which can be responsible for SPS. Like other genetic diseases such as Late Onset Ataxia or Primary Lens Luxation, a dog that tests clear is unable to pass on the disease. A carrier of SPS when bred to another carrier will produce this disease, if not in all, at least in some, of the puppies in the litter.
Other Solutions and Considerations
For this reason, conscientious Border Terrier breeders are adding this simple DNA test to their repertoire of standard health testing. Dogs found to be carriers will only be bred to clear dogs. Any dog found to produce the disease should be spayed or neutered. At the very least, the breeding pairing should never be repeated. Little is known about SPS or even if there is any successful treatment for dogs affected by it. At this point, prevention is the best course of action. Another disease which can produce shaking in Border Terriers is called Canine Epileptoid Cramping Seizures (CECS). This heartbreaking disease generally affects dogs in the later stages of life. It is differentiated from SPS (also known as SLEM or Spongiform Leukoencephalomyelopathy) with seizures and shaking occurring randomly as opposed to SPS where intense tremors begin every time the pup attempts to stand or move.
Some dogs also exhibit tremors when their bodies are unwell or have become intoxicated with a poisonous substance. This shaking behavior is often accompanied by pacing and bouts of restlessness and hyperactivity. If you suspect your Border Terrier may be suffering from poisoning, it is critical that you take him to your nearest veterinary clinic right away. This is not the time to wait to gauge signs of improvement. Particularly if you are unaware of what is causing the reaction, it is vital that you seek veterinary intervention. To delay could equate to the death of your beloved Border Terrier. Of course, it is always possible that your Border Terrier is shivering with delight at your arrival. Our dogs do love us very much, and one way they express that is through wagging their tails, giving exuberant little kisses, and shaking with pure joy. Where else could you get such a great welcome? Old age can also play a role in shaking behaviors with dogs. If your dog is getting up there in years, his nervous may begin to degenerate resulting in a continual low grade tremor.