Ever wonder why your dog shakes off with it's entire body? Curious why your dog will widen it's stance, begin to shake by flapping it's lips and ears, working that wiggle like a wave all the way down to the tail?

This very intentional communicational signal is what I like to affectionately call a "shake off". Dogs will shake off in a variety of circumstances, but it virtually always means the dog is coming down off an adrenaline rush. Other dogs recognize this as a calming signal, or non-threatening behavior, and it helps relax others around your dog. 

I always reinforce my dogs every single time they shake off.  In fact, I said "Good shaky!" so many times to my old dog Boomer, that eventually I could ASK him for a shaky, and he'd offer it on command! When Boomer was stressed, he would become aggressive and make bad decisions for himself. I would recognize his stress signals, then politely ask him to "shake it off"... and after he did, he suddenly became more relaxed and calm! 

The best way I can think to explain it, is that a shake off is like a "reset" button, and gives the dog an opportunity to "shake off" that negative energy. It simply means the dog is moving into a more predictable state of mind, one of impulse control and responsiveness. Prior to a shake off, the dog can be in a reactive and aroused state, a much more difficult mindset to respond to training or commands, and also that unpredictable energy can easily lead to unwanted behaviors, like jumping up or even aggression. 

Certainly dogs shake off after a bath or getting wet, to dry themselves and set their fur back into place. But for many dogs, grooming can be stressful or even exciting. So perhaps that shake off at the end of bath time isn't always just about self-grooming!

Many dogs will shake off to signal to another dog that they are done playing. In the picture in this blog, you see Daisy Mae the Basset Hound shaking off after a rigorous play session with her buddy Max (seen feeing the scene in the lower right corner). This is Daisy's way of intentionally communicating, "Man, that was fun...but I need a break now!"

Next time you visit your veterinarian, watch what your dog does immediately after they let him or her down from the exam table. I bet you any money they shake off the stress of the physical exam (especially that rude thermometer business!), as if to say "Yuck, get those vet germs off me!"

Have a dog who gleefully jumps all over you when you return home? Next time you come home from work to a bouncy puppy, watch and wait for your pooch to settle down and finally "shake off" the excitement of your arrival. THAT'S when you should praise and pet your pup! By reinforcing the shake off, you are telling your dog you prefer the calm, polite behavior, and doing this could curb your pooch's jumping habit!

So next time you see or hear your dog "shake off", praise and encourage this calm, cool, and collected behavior!