Why Do Dogs Shake Off When They Wake Up?

Photo of a brown lab shaking water off of it's body.

I’ve been ferociously shaking off post slumber for over five years now. I know exactly why I do it, and in reflection, makes me the resident expert on why all other dogs have a tendency to shake off when they wake up too.

Dogs shake off when they wake up in preparation for movement and upcoming activity. This helps to increase blood flow to their extremities, loosen up tight muscles acquired during sleep, and increase cognitive focus as they start their day.

I want to deep dive into the behavioral responses and evolving innate characteristics of dogs on even the most basic actions, e.g. the “shake-off”.

Let’s begin with a history lesson on natural canine behavior, then focus in on why dogs shake upon awaking, and end with other instances your dog finds shaking a necessary response to other circumstances or actions.

Disclaimer: The Can My Dog articles contain information based on the individual research and opinions of the author of the site – who just so happens to be a dog. How you utilize the information given is completely up to you. Proceed at your own risk.

The Evolution of Canine Shake Offs

Let’s look at this from a narrowed in micro approach to why a dog would need to shake off for survival.

It’s important in situations like this to address overly complicated theories and then regurgitate them in an overly simplified manner. Truth be told, I personally think complexity and jargon masquerades a lack of knowledge on any subject.

Explain it to a five year old, or you don’t understand it…right?

This allows for a broader understanding of why this particular characteristic in question has been observed throughout history in canines of all types.

Dogs do not have apposable thumbs for plucking things out and off of their fur.

Dogs do not have long, spreadable fingers to grab a towel to dry on. And this is really where the evolutionary trait is derived from. The inherent need to stay dry to avoid hypothermia in cold and damp weather climates.

We’re talking survival traits here.

The science behind shake off frequencies and nuanced mechanics can get highly technical but also highly interesting.

I pulled a quote from an abstract summarizing the findings of a scholarly article titled, Wet mammals shake at tuned frequencies to dry:

“By rapidly oscillating their bodies, through a process similar to shivering, furry mammals can dry themselves within seconds.”

Andrew Dickerson, Zachary G. Mills, David l. Hu

This group actually took empiracle testing to a whole other sub-particle level to extract viable data.

And I must say, the findings were interesting and offer an important insight into canine shakes and innate behaviors as it pertains to historical reference points needed for this outline.

The oscillation rate testing involved 33 different animals ranging in size from mice to bears and five different breeds of dogs.

In (overly simplified) summation, what the study found was that water repelled at a more frequent rate, the faster the animal shook in direct comparison to the tightness of their skin.

In order for the water droplets to eject from the fur, the animal needed an average centrifugal acceleration of between 10-70 (completely indicative in relation to animal size – the higher the centrifugal acceleration, the bigger the animal in mass).

Phrased differently, the wetter the animal, the faster they need to shake off in order to actually dry.

Here’s a breakdown sampling pulled directly from this study’s data:

BreedWeight in kgRadius in cmFrequency in HzCentrifugal Acceleration
Siberian Husky10.98.85.819
Labrador Retriever26.811.94.616
Data pulled from this study published in NCBI

Remember: the ability and quickness of an animal to dry off can mean the difference between life and death for them in certain climates.

The Purpose of the Morning Shake-Off

Most actions and seemingly natural behaviors observed in your dog have a specific purpose to solve a specific need.

Shaking off just so happens to be one of those very behaviors.

While there are varying reasons your dog will need to shake off, let’s focus on why they shake immediately upon awakening on a daily basis in this section.

There are three primary reasons for this behavior in your dog.

  1. Your dog is warming up their muscles in preparation for movement.
  2. They are attempting to increasing blood flow throughout their body.
  3. Your dog is quite literally “shaking off” the fog from being asleep all night.

Now, let’s dive deeper into each of these three reasons.

As your dog sleeps throughout the night, their body enters into a preservation rest cycle meant to restore energy on a cellular basis.

In order for this to be effective, their bodies naturally slow their heart rate, blood flow, and organ activity expenditure.

This is all a good thing and your human body does the same. Which is why you need to stretch, rub your face, and wiggle your toes when you wake up.

And exactly why your dog stretches and shakes as soon as they jump off the bed every morning. They’re shaking to wake up their sleeping muscles so they can efficiently and effectively run to their breakfast bowl without straining a muscle.

This reasoning flows directly into the second case numbered above.

A part of warming up their muscles in preparation for movement and the day is increasing the amount of blood flowing throughout their body.

Blood flow is easily elevated when your dog shakes their fur.

Reason number three has more to do with the actual wake up process as opposed to warming up their bodies and muscles in anticipation of the day ahead.

Your dog has been asleep for hours. They’re groggy upon wakening, stiff, and haven’t moved for prolonged periods of time.

The shake off quite literally “shakes off” last nights sleep.

I probably should have mentioned this one first, as this reasoning essentially initiates the iterated uses cases of why your dog shakes off when they wake up, but it works here too.

Barring no medical condition or shivering issue related to health concerns, your dog does this every morning or after every nap to literally WAKE UP.


Other Reasons Your Dog Shakes Off

When we’re discussing actions as common as a dog shaking off, we must remember that the reasons behind this are equally as common as the reasons a human can give for scratching their skin.

There are a myriad instances when the validity of your dog shaking off is related to satisfying a common catalyst.

Let me explain.

Your Dog May Be Shaking Off Because of Allergies or Dry Skin

I see this occur in real time because, well, this is me. I shake off because of my allergies and dry skin.

When a dog has itchy skin they will spend a lot of time biting at and physically scratching at their skin.

This causes their entire body to tense and focus on one single thing in this moment.

Once they’ve satisfied the “itch”, the act of shaking finishes off the job and removes the previous focus thus allowing them to enter into a state of relaxation now.

Again by quite literally, shaking it off.

Is Your Dog Shaking Off After Coming Inside From the Cold Air?

If your dog shakes vigorously after coming inside from the cold, they’re again, trying to increase the blood flow throughout their bodies and warm up.

The cold air does two things to your dog that then promotes the shake off once back inside.

First, the coldness slows the flow of blood in your dog’s body.

And second, the cold dries out your dog’s skin.

The first issue needs warmth to fix, while the second needs moisture. Both of which are produced as a result of your dog shaking.


Moisture, you ask?

How does a shake produce moisture?

In short, when your dog shakes, their skin is forced to oscillate back and forth across their body. The movement of skin excretes natural oils in order to freely move in an elastic manner.

Your Dog Will Shake Off After a Bath, Rain, Or Swimming Session

Your dog shaking off because they’re physically wet is more common and more broadly adopted due to it’s more apparent nature.

As thoroughly outlined under the first header of this article, a dog (or any animal for that matter) must shake moisture and water droplets off of their skin and coat in order to stay dry, warm, and safe from hypothermia in certain colder climates.

This in an innate and instinctual response for your dog.

If they’re wet, they’ll shake off in order to dry. Again, no spreadable fingers or opposable thumbs to grab a nice warm towel with.

Your Dog Will Shake Off After a Stressful Experience

Any time your dog experiences a stressful situation, be it an altercation with another dog, or an uneasy feeling about a human, they will need to shake off immediately after.

When stressful situations occur for your dog, their blood actually pumps faster, their cortisol (stress) levels rise, their blood pressure elevates, and their adrenaline kicks in.

This takes a toll on their body and shaking off after allows them to normalize those previously elevated levels.

Just another form of “shaking off” the problem.

Your Dog Will Shake Off After Playing or Wrestling

Much of the same reasoning as outline directly above in the “stressful situation” instance.

When your dog is playing and exerting excessive levels of energy, again, their blood pressure and heart rate rises in conjunction with adrenaline and endorphins.

Think of it as the need you have to stretch and cool down after a hard workout or cardio session.

Blood flow must normalize and heart rate needs a chance to even back out.

Your dog is able to do this by shaking off.


Above is a comprehensive outline of the use case of a dog shake and why your dog shakes off when they wake up in the morning.

Again, this is a natural behavior that you’ll inevitably observe in your dog for many reasons.

If your dog seems to be chronically shaking off for non-obvious reasons and is acting strange in any other way, it’s important to alert your vet immediately.

A change in your dog’s behavior is an immediate red flag and they’re trying to tell you something.

Listen to them!

And as always, continue to Live, Love, Laugh, and Scratch our bellies often.

Love you guys,


P.S. If you’re new to this world, you may want to check out my Ultimate Guide for First Time Dog Parents. It’s a great reference to get you started on this journey.

Related Questions

Why Do Dogs Stretch When They Wake Up?

Dogs are active creatures and are happiest when they’re moving. In order to move at the efficiency they desire, stretching is a must.

Especially after a nap or nights sleep and their bodies have been in a catabolic state of rebuilding tissue and cellular function all night long.

Stretching upon waking does the same things for your dog as it does for you.

Allows them to ensure their muscles and joints are ready for movement and blood is flowing properly.

Do Dogs Get Annoyed When You Wake Them Up?

Dogs do not like to be woken up suddenly, aggressively, or frequently.

Dogs sleep – a lot.

On average a dog will sleep about 14-20 hours per day depending on their age and normal activity levels.

Waking them up will alter their rest and recovery cycles. This will lead to a grumpy dog.

It’s best to, what is it they say, “let sleeping dogs lie”?

This article has been reviewed by our Editorial Board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our Editorial Policies.

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