Greyhounds sure seem to shake a lot! Whether it’s shaky back legs, trembling in the car, or just giving a good shake-off every couple of hours, you may wonder if your greyhound is feeling alright. I’ve had the same worries about my greyhounds over the years, and I can help you sort out when shaking is normal for your dog, and when you should be concerned.
So, “why does my greyhound shake,” you ask. There are two types: voluntary and involuntary. In both cases, whenever your greyhound always shakes, it is always a response to a feeling (emotional or physical).
I don’t mean to give the impression that greyhounds tremble all the time. They don’t; it’s just that when they do, it’s quite dramatic, and can get you really worried! Let’s sort out the various types of shaking in greyhounds, why they do it, and what you can do to help.
Sorting Out the Myths About Shaky Greyhounds
If you found this article through an internet search, you are probably concerned about trembling in your greyhound, as opposed to shaking himself out (we’ll get to that later). It’s good that you’ve come to Greyhound Homecare, because greyhounds are a breed apart from other dogs! “Dog experts” have two basic ideas about shaking which do not necessarily apply to greyhounds.
The first of these ideas is that you must call the vet anytime your dog becomes shaky. If your greyhound needs to see the vet, shakiness may be a symptom, yes; but it will not be the only symptom. Trembling alone is no reason to bring your greyhound to the vet, and an unnecessarily trip to the vet will undoubtedly make the problem worse!
The second wrong idea is that your greyhound is shaking because he is “nervous from all the abuse he suffered while racing.” This is a dangerous idea, because it can keep you from taking the time to figure out what is truly bothering your greyhound, leaving him needlessly miserable.
Let’s explore the various quirky reasons why your greyhound may start shaking.
Reasons for Involuntary Shaking
- Emotional upset
- Prey sighted
- Physical weakness
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
Fear is a Common Cause of Trembling in Greyhounds
It is not unusual for greyhounds to be afraid, to the point of shaking, about certain things. Do not over react if your greyhound is fearful about something. If it’s something you can avoid, do so. If not, just gently reassure him, and let him see you going on with things as normal. My greyhounds have always gotten braver about things as they get older, although there is usually something or another they never get over. For these, there are a variety of products you can try to calm your pet enough so he is, at least, not trembling. A ticking clock next to him, or putting a blanket over him is often enough. Common greyhound fear-triggers include:
- Thunder, fireworks, gunshots
- Vet visits – in your greyhound’s mind, nothing good ever started at the vet’s office
- Smooth floors – greyhounds hate these, because they find them slippery. Greyhounds balance their tall, graceful bodies by using their claws to grip the walking surface, much like the tread of a shoe. On a smooth floor, they have nothing to dig into. This can be especially upsetting for a greyhound who has arthritis. If he feels himself beginning to slip, and has to shift to his weight to an arthritic hip, it can be very painful for him.
- Stairs – greyhounds have never seen stairs before, and some never get used to them.
- The dark
- Riding in the car
- Anything new or unfamiliar, which brings us to apprehension…
Your Greyhound may Tremble with Apprehension
Apprehension is the kind of fear your greyhound may experience when he assesses something incorrectly. When this happens, guide your greyhound over to the object. Reach out and touch it, so he can see that it’s not what he thinks. Your greyhound may be apprehensive about things like these:
- Walking through a narrow space, even though it’s wide enough for him to get through
- Dried leaves blowing across the road – some greyhounds will think each of those leaves is a living creature
- An object left at the curb that’s not usually there – also considered, potentially, a living creature
- Statues – Lily occasionally barks at the bronze greyhound next to our fireplace
Emotional Upset can Bring on Trembling in a Greyhound
Greyhounds can be very emotionally sensitive. Because of this, if you feel it necessary to discipline your dog, keep it brief, controlled, and right to the point. I learned this pretty quickly! When I started yelling, “No! No! Bad dog,” my greyhound was absolutely horrified and begin shaking like Jell-O. I also realized that this did not stop the behavior I was hoping to fix.
My dog, Shannon, used to go into violent tremors whenever we put him in his crate. We could not understand why a dog who had seemed so comfortable in his crate at the track would be so upset in one at home. We ended up getting him a much larger crate, and that solved the problem. It also helped that this new crate was big enough to put his whole bed inside. The original crate was one of those plastic-Shell types; so Shannon also seemed uncomfortable with the fact that he couldn’t see out of it from all sides.
A Greyhound may Tremble When he Sights Prey
Some greyhounds will begin quivering if they see something they would love to chase, like a squirrel or a cat. It may be hard to tell if your dog is quivering when he spots prey, since that is not the best time to touch him. Either way, this is natural, instinctive behavior for your greyhound, and not something that necessarily needs to be remedied, except in the case of cats. Never allow your greyhound outdoors when he could get to a cat. Any time your dog shows so much of this type of interest in a cat, firmly say “leave it” to discourage the behavior. If your dog is on a leash at the time, you can reinforce this my moving him along.
The Excitement of Anticipation can Make Your Greyhound Tremble with Delight
Some greyhounds will get so excited about a treat or getting ready for a walk, they will actually start trembling. Often when this happens, their teeth will chatter, too. This kind of trembling is just from excess joy. If he wasn’t trembling, he would probably be jumping all over you; so this sort of shaking is one you will want to leave alone.
Physical Weakness as a Cause of Greyhound Trembling
If your greyhound is doing his “doggy business,” and you see one of his front legs trembling, it may just be that he has settled into an awkward position. This can often happen if he is facing downhill at the time. Once his haunches go up, his weight shifts to his two front legs, and a dog facing downhill looks like he could go into a somersault any minute. Although I’ve never seen this actually happen, you should encourage your greyhound to “take care of business” while you’re walking uphill, or at least try to turn around and face that way if you see he’s getting ready to “launch.”
If it is his hindquarters that are shaking and this is something you see regularly, or it is starting to happen regularly, there could be some physical weakness there. It may be from an old injury, or arthritis, or both. Sometimes elderly greyhounds need, literally, a helping hand back there to support them. This is a lot of bending down for you; so in order to save your back, you may find it helpful to use a support harness to assist your buddy. Arthri-Soothe is an herbal product that works very well for a lot of dogs who have this problem.
Some greyhounds become shaky in their hindquarters when standing for a long time while out in public. Most dogs would just sit when they get tired of standing, but I don’t think this is a particularly comfortable position for a greyhound; so he will just stand there. It’s good to keep, in your car, a pad or a folded blanket that you can throw on the ground or floor. I even bring my greyhound’s pad into the vet’s office. In addition to being more comfortable, it also seems to cut down on the fear factor.
Speaking of the vet, be sure to let him know about any signs of physical weakness in your greyhound. You can just do this at the regular checkup, unless there are other symptoms, or unless your dog’s shakiness seems to be getting suddenly worse.
A Greyhound will often Tremble if he is Feeling Unwell
If illness is the cause of your greyhound’s shaking, however, it will usually be accompanied by other symptoms. When Lily had too many fatty meat scraps on Christmas Eve, she trembled and threw-up on the rug. While I was cleaning that up, she threw-up again! My daughter pointed out that she was still trembling, and sure enough, she threw/up a third time! The trembling continued. Up came Round 4! After that, the trembling stopped, and so did the vomiting.
So you see, monitoring Lily’s shaking helped me know how she was doing.
In that way, trembling can actually be helpful.
Sometimes, Your Greyhound is Just Shivering from the Cold
Check to see if there is a draught by his bed. The best option is to stop the draught, but you may need to relocate his bed to a warmer spot. Even your greyhound has always been comfortable in the past, you may find him shivering with the cold as he gets older. Whether old or young, your chilly greyhound will love having a blanket placed lovingly over him. We used to have a huge red sweater, which my dog, Shannon, hated – at first. When he got older, though, he would run back to his bed after a walk, without stopping to let us take off the sweater.
Reasons for Voluntary Shaking (shaking himself out)
All dogs do this, but greyhounds seem to do it an awful lot! Here are some of the reasons why they like to shake out:
- Dry off – check out this amazing video shot by my daughter after we gave Lily a bath. It’s both stunning and hilarious how Lily’s skin slides around on her bones!
- Get warm – if your greyhound hesitates while walking with you on a cold day, please hold up for a moment – he may want to shake off the cold. A good shaking-out helps your greyhound warm up.
- Remove offending objects, like clothing & accessories – Don’t dress up your greyhound if he hates it….except for the coat. That’s non-negotiable. Find a good, secure coat for your greyhound, like Fido Fleece, that he can’t shake off. For everything else, put it on him long enough to get that cute Instagram pic. Then, you’d better get it off, before he destroys it. We thought we would have a little Christmas fun once with Lily, by putting jingle-bell bracelets on her paws. Instead of shaking madly and jingling up a storm, she just reached down and started nipping off the bells!
- Release tension (muscle or emotional)
- Loosen up (getting up from sleep to shake out) – our first greyhound, Peaches, would often be stiff when she got up from a nap. Sometimes, she would even have a charlie-horse. I noticed this doesn’t happen with our other greyhounds; and I’ve come to realize it’s because they get up once in a while, walk around a little, and give themselves a good shake-off from head to tail.
- Watch for vigorous head-shaking; this can indicate a problem with his ears.
Always let your greyhound shake out! It’s how he gets comfortable, and shakes off bad feelings.
After a walk in the rain, protect your walls by encouraging your greyhound to shake off in garage. Here is a house cleaning tip: check your walls and furniture periodically in any area where your greyhound shakes off a lot. They can be surprisingly messy!
Greyhounds Can be Collar Houdinis
Like the coat, the collar is non-negotiable. Your greyhound must not be allowed to shake this off. Ever. Martingale, my eye; there isn’t a Martingale collar on this planet that can hold one of my dogs. They’ve each had a unique way of escaping from them, too. Shaking has always been the go-to method for all three. If that failed to release Peaches from her collar, she would suddenly drop her head, like a horse at a watering hole, and it would slip right off. When Lily can’t shake off her collar, she just backs right out of it. That’s one of the reasons she’s in a snoot-loop now. Shannon was the Gold Medalist of the Collar-fling. One toss of his mighty head, and his collar seemed to sprout wings! It would fly many feet, always to the left, earning him top scores for style, distance, AND accuracy. His racing name wasn’t Shrewd Master for nothing.
When your greyhound does this, give him a firm “no.” One of the fantastic things about greyhounds is, if you see a behavior about to happen, you can give them a warning, and they understand, so you’ll want to work consistantly on that.
It’s true that you and your greyhound may get off to a shaky start; but that will turn into smooth sailing with these greyt Greyhound Homecare tips!