We all love watching our dogs play, observing how they interact with their toys and the games they enjoy. And while you have been staring at your fur baby, you may have noticed that they like to pick up some toys and shake them around in their mouths. Often, this is not just a little shake of the head, but a wild movement that involves their whole upper body. But what is going on here? Well, sometimes it is simply playful behavior, but other times, it could be a signal that your pooch is feeling frustrated or aggressive.
If you have ever found yourself asking the question ‘why do dogs shake their toys?’, here, we are going to provide you with some possible answers.
Treating the Toys as Prey
While you may never believe it staring into the eyes of your playful pooch, dogs were originally hunting animals who were very skilful and catching and killing their prey. Over the years, they have become domesticated by human beings, but these instincts have not gone away entirely. When your dog shakes a toy, they could be imagining that it is prey, and this could have been one of the methods that they used to kill it. All kinds of small animals would have made up the diet of a wild dog such as rodents and rabbits. Indeed, some dogs will still go after them today. The action of shaking would serve to break the neck or the spine of whatever they had caught. Try to choose toys that would resemble the size of their prey. Don’t worry about letting your dog express these instincts. It is better that they do it on toys rather than real life animals after all!
A simple explanation of why your dog is shaking their toy is that it is fun. Even though the dogs of the past were natural born killers, they still liked to enjoy themselves, and these instincts are likely to have carried through. A dog shaking their toy may also just be a cry of attention to you, trying to get you to play with them. And if you engage them with a good old-fashioned game of fetch, they may shake their toy every time they bring it back to you, adding another element of fun to the game. If you decide to stop the game early, shaking the toy could be a good way of bringing you back into the action. And if you give in to this a couple of times, it is more likely to become reinforced, and the behavior will be repeated in the future.
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Frustration or Boredom
With the previous two answers, we have referred to your dog shaking their toys in a harmless manner, but if your hound seems to be shaking their toys with the intent of destroying them, it could be that frustration or boredom is causing this. This behavior is often observed in dogs who are left alone for extended periods of time as they could be suffering from separation anxiety. In these situations, you could find yourself walking back through the front door, only to find the remnants of their toy scattered all over the house. And the worrying thing about this behavior is that it could progress from toys to other things around the house. So, it is important that you don’t ignore it. While it may seem strange, your pooch is crying out for attention, and even the negative attention that they get from destroying your stuff is worth it. You can help to solve the problem by paying them more attention, getting someone in during the day to go out for a walk with your dog, and ensuring that they are mentally stimulated with puzzle toys, as well as the simple ones.
In more serious situations, your dog could be showing signs of aggression by shaking their toys. Look for accompanying warning signs such as jumping up, raising their head, and shaking the toy over you or another animal. This is behavior that shouldn’t be ignored as it can lead to them to shaking other pets and even small children in the house. You are going to need to speak to your vet and possibly even an animal behaviorist as a way of trying to tackle the problem head on. Some possible actions to take include ignoring your dog when they are taking an aggressive stance and offering rewards for correct behavior.
Managing Your Dog’s Head Shaking
If your dog shakes a toy, this is not usually a problem. However, if the behavior starts to become more destructive or aggressive, these are the times that you need to take action. If your dog picks anything else up and starts to play with it, you need to tell them ‘no’ in a firm voice, while retrieving the item from their grasp. Your dog may still really want to chew something, so you can offer them one of their toys as a possible substitute. This whole process is made significantly easier if you teach them a command such as ‘drop it’ or ‘leave it’. Don’t overlook the importance of this command as it allows you to control your dog from afar. When your pooch follows the command properly, you should offer them praise and/or rewards as a way of reinforcing the behavior. Avoid getting into a tug of war situation with your dog if they refuse to drop it as this could likely lead to you getting bitten. You can also use items such as deterrent sprays as a way of discouraging your dog from going after your favorite things.
Often, your dog shaking their toy is a result of hunting or playful behavior. However, if your dog shaking a toy seems to be borne from frustration or aggression, these are the times when you need to take action to stop it from spiralling into something more serious.
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