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Why Does My Small Dog Shake or Tremble?


What's Shakin'?

If you have a small dog, you've probably noticed that they tremble occasionally.

We own a miniature poodle (our second one) and I've researched it online, and discussed it with other small dog owners. Dog experts agree that it occurs most often in the following situations:

  • when meeting new people;
  • when confronted by a new situation or something that is unfamiliar;
  • when they're cold (after all, small dogs don't have much body fat)
  • when they're focusing intently -- like when they're about to be fed
  • when they see/hear other dogs;
  • when they're in a new place.

Canine experts surmise that the trembling is a defense mechanism -- it creates a "take care of me" response in their owners. And I suppose this is true -- when our Little One starts shaking, we tend to pick him up.

This is Baxter the Amazing Min Poodle giving the camera a bashful look


Should I Be Worried?

The only time to worry about trembling is if it occurs suddenly, or if your dog rarely trembles but then begins trembling often.

If you notice that the trembling is located in the dog's legs (rather than "all over") then take your dog to the vet.

If you notice trembling in the dog's jaws or head, you'll want to take them to the vet. Certain neurological disorders will cause this. Your vet is the best source of information.

My best advice? Watch your dog closely. You'll learn when their trembling is simply a part of their makeup, or whether it is something out of the ordinary.

If you feel concerned, then a visit to the vet is always a good idea. They can relieve your mind, or help you with treatment if that is required.

Will the Trembling End?

We've noticed that the trembling decreases as the dog gets older.

Was your small dog a rescue? When small dogs have been in improper homes (both of our miniature poodles were rescue dogs from bad situations) the trembling decreases after a year or so, once they realize that they are now in safe and supportive environments.

Are there loud noises in your home that could be controlled? An acquaintance had an old air conditioner that made a loud racket when it kicked on. When the system was replaced -- and it operated quietly -- their dog's trembling decreased considerably.

Pay attention to your small dog's trembling. Do you notice that there are particular occurrences that cause the trembling? If they are things you can control, it's worth the effort to do so.

Baxter in his favorite place: the crook of a loving arm


My Two Biggest Pet Peeves

Some people -- those who don't own small dogs -- often think that small dogs "always" tremble. They believe this because their only exposure to small dogs is when they meet them for the first time -- a situation that causes small dogs to tremble.

The truth, though, is that small dogs don't tremble much. So what is my first pet peeve? When people say "I could never have a dog that shakes all the time!"

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I say: but they don't tremble all the time... only when meeting strangers. I often have to bite my tongue, because I'd like to say: "As soon as you leave, the dog will stop trembling... here's your hat, what's your hurry?"


My second pet peeve is not really related to the shaking part. It's when people assume that small dogs are "yappy" -- most aren't. Small dogs are primarily lap dogs, and the barking tendencies have been bred out of them. The only time our dog barks -- surprise, surprise -- is when new people come into the house. Otherwise, they're incredibly quiet.

We love small dogs, particularly poodles. They're loving animals, and very smart. They train quickly, and they want (as most dogs do) to please their people-friends. They're quiet, don't shed, housebreak easily, and are wonderful companions.

What's not to like?


Final Thoughts

Generally, trembling isn't anything to be concerned about in small dogs. It's simply one of the attributes of the breed variety.

But if it is causing you worry, then please take your pet to the vet. It's not cheap these days, but the peace of mind is certainly worth it.


Leslie on November 07, 2014:

We just got a tiny toy poodle and he is an absolute sweetheart. He has just finished his first week with us and is starting to really fit in and relax. I had one other small breed before, but he was a carin terror and he just never really shook unless he was obviously excited (tail wagging, running and dancing at my feet). I was wondering what the shaking/trembling meant because he does it a lot and I worry that he might be too cold sometimes (he was in such bad shape that he needed a to-the-skin buzz to get rid of all the mattes) even if I have a sweater on him. Thank you so much for cluing me in. If there is anything I can do to make my little one more comfy I'm going to do it. Now I know he'll stop in time once he feels secure.

Buster Bucks (author) from Sonoma County, California on December 18, 2012:

Hi Velzipmur,

We now have a second tiny dog -- they're incredible companions.

Thanks for taking the time to write!


Shelly Wyatt from Maryland on December 18, 2012:

Great hub, you are right most people do not understand the small dog, I love them! We have pomeranians, they were my first experience with the small dog before them we only had large dogs. Now I am a big fan of the small dog. Thanks for the information.

john cena on October 29, 2011:

preety dog so cute

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