If you have a Dachshund, you have probably heard multiple theories as to why your long, little doggy tends to shake like he or she is freezing to death. Dachshunds shake so much that popular wisdom has developed many different hypotheses for the behavior, from an excess of energy to a need for attention. Although it is true that your short-legged friend may be more susceptible to shaking than other breeds, the reason for each shiver depends more on how your dog feels in the moment. Figuring out the reason behind your dog's shaking behavior may make you feel like a reader of canine minds if not an amateur veterinarian, but you won't be able to figure out what to do until you know why the shaking is happening.
The Root of the Behavior
More often than not, a shivering dog is trying to fight off cold. Dogs have a high body temperature, sometimes reaching up to 102.5 F, and it is very easy for them to feel uncomfortably chilled. This is particularly true for small dogs like Dachshunds, who lose heat quickly whenever they are left out in the cold. Dachshunds also tend to shiver as an emotional response, either to fear and anxiety or to excitement. An onlooker may fondly claim that your dog's energy is too big for his little body, and though you may wish for a dime every time you hear it, the claim may be true. Shaking is a normal way for dogs to use up excess energy. Similarly, if a dog has too much nervous energy, he or she may start to shake with fear. You can check if this might be the case by watching when your Dachshund starts shivering. Common experiences such as riding in a car or listening to the vacuum cleaner are common stressors, which you may be able to minimize in order to help your dog shake less often.
Some dogs have anxious dispositions or have been primed to anxiety by early experiences. If your dog seems severely fearful in certain situations, you may wish to consult with a veterinarian to see if there is anything that can help. That said, many dogs pick up on what their owners' responses are to their shivers. If you pick up your little dog and give him or her lots of attention and cuddles every time he or she shakes, the dog may learn this pattern and shake in an effort to get some extra love. In other cases, however, shaking is a response ot physical pain or another discomfort. Older dogs often develop tremors in their legs, and while mild shaking is normal, more severe manifestations may be a sign of joint pain. Meanwhile, in dogs of any age, trembling can be the body's attempt to “shake off” pain or fever.
Encouraging the Behavior
Let's face it, when a sweet little Dachshund starts to shiver, our initial response is usually to coo over his or her adorableness. As mentioned before, this can be an effective way of getting your dog to shake more often, especially when he or she wants your attention. Try not to reinforce that behavior, because you might miss it if the shaking eventually becomes a sign of something wrong. Instead, only pet and pick up your Dachshund if his or her body is calm. If your Dachshund isn't shaking for attention, the root cause is what you need to focus on.
Dogs that shake when the heat is turned down or when out for a walk in cool air, for example, may be too cold. You wouldn't want your furry friend to be uncomfortable for long, so think about getting a dog sweater or coat. A pair of booties to keep his or her feet warm can be helpful as well. Dogs who shiver as a fear response need some help dealing with that fear. Some fears, like fireworks, are easier to avoid. Others, like car rides and mail carrier visits, may require you to provide some comfort. If the fear is too intense, however, you may need to talk to your vet about medication.
Other Solutions and Considerations
A vet visit is also important if you believe your dog's problem to be medical. This is more likely if the dog is showing other symptoms, such as mobility problems or gastrointestinal distress. One particularly dangerous cause of shaking is epilepsy and other neurological disorders. If your dog is not just shaking but also losing consciousness and muscle control, an immediate vet visit is necessary. Medical care is also crucial if your dog is shaking because he or she has ingested a toxin, such as chocolate or the sugar substitute xylitol. Conversely, if your dog is shaking for no apparent reason, your vet may be able to evaluate him or her for generalized tremor syndrome (GTS). The condition usually comes on before a dog is 2 years old, but after the age of 9 months, and is treatable with corticosteroids.
Dogs cannot communicate with you in words, and so they communicate with you in other ways. If you have a Dachshund, one of those ways is probably shaking. Your little dog will appreciate it if you take the time to figure out the message and try to make him or her feel more comfortable. Hop to it – your little buddy needs you!