Why Do Dogs Shake Their Heads After You Pet Them? What To Do

Have you ever noticed that after giving your furry friend a gentle pat or scratch on the head, they immediately start shaking their head vigorously? 

So, why do dogs shake their heads after you pet them? The head shakes after petting is a fascinating phenomenon with various possible explanations.

While it can be a harmless reaction, it may also indicate underlying issues such as discomfort, irritation, or even pleasure.

Let’s delve into why dogs shake their heads after being petted, unraveling the mysteries behind this curious behavior.

Why Do Dogs Shake Their Heads After You Pet Them?

why do dogs shake their heads after you pet them

While it’s true that dogs may shake their heads to dislodge dead hair and debris when you rub their heads, it’s crucial to be aware that head shaking can also indicate medical issues, especially an ear infection.

Head shaking in dogs after being petted can have various underlying causes.

If your dog frequently shakes their head after petting, it’s advisable to monitor their behavior for any signs of discomfort or other symptoms of ear problems.

Additionally, it’s important to consider that dogs may exhibit a “shake-off” behavior if they find the interaction stressful or if they have reached their tolerance threshold.

Health Problems That They May Have If Dog Always Shaking Head

While occasional head shaking is normal, persistent and frequent head shaking can be a sign of underlying health problems, such as ear infection, earwax buildup, water/foreign objects in ears, ear mites, allergies, or neurological disorder.

Ear Infection

Why do dogs shake their head after being petted?

If your dog is constantly shaking its head, it could be an indication of an underlying health issue, such as an ear infection. 

Dogs with ear infections often experience discomfort and irritation, leading to frequent head shaking as a way to alleviate the itch.

Ear infections can occur due to factors like bacteria, yeast, allergies, or trapped moisture in the ear canal.

It’s important to closely monitor your dog’s behavior and look for additional signs like ear odor, redness, swelling, discharge, or excessive scratching.

When my pooch’s ears get infected, his ears also get hot at night. So keep this in mind.

Earwax Buildup

Why does a dog shake his head?

Persistent head shaking in dogs can be a sign of various health problems, including earwax buildup. Just like humans, dogs naturally produce earwax to protect and lubricate their ear canals.

However, excessive or abnormal production of earwax can lead to buildup, causing discomfort, blockage, and irritation.

As a result, dogs may vigorously shake their heads in an attempt to dislodge the excess wax.

Regularly checking your dog’s ears for signs of excessive earwax, such as a dark, waxy discharge or a foul odor, is essential.

Ear Mites

Why do dogs shake their heads and body?

Suppose your dog frequently shakes its head; it could be a result of ear mites, which are tiny parasites that can infest the ear canal.

Ear mites are highly contagious and can cause intense itching and irritation for your furry friend.

The discomfort caused by these mites often leads to persistent head shaking as a way for the dog to relieve the itchiness.

When my pet was in this case, I also  noticed dark discharge, redness, and a strong odor from its ears.


What does it mean when dogs shake their head?

Whether food-related or environmental, allergies can manifest in dogs through various symptoms, including head shaking.

Dogs with allergies may experience itching, redness, and inflammation in their ears, leading to frequent head shaking.

Identifying and eliminating the allergen from the dog’s environment or implementing a hypoallergenic diet may help alleviate the symptoms.

Neurological Disorders

In rare cases, persistent head shaking can be a symptom of underlying neurological disorders, which trigger head tremors.

Conditions such as vestibular disease, seizures, or aural hematomas can also force dogs to exhibit head shaking along with other neurological signs.

Suppose head shaking is accompanied by disorientation, loss of balance, or abnormal behavior.

In this situation, seek immediate veterinary attention to diagnose and manage the underlying condition.

Water In Ears

Dogs, especially those with floppy ears, are prone to water getting trapped in their ear canals after swimming, bathing, or exposure to wet environments.

So why do dogs shake their heads a lot?

The trapped water creates a moist environment that can lead to bacterial or yeast infections.

The dog’s instinctual response to the discomfort caused by water in the ears is vigorous head shaking.

Other Causes

Besides the common health problems listed above, there are other potential causes to consider.

Some may shake their heads due to foreign objects, such as grass seeds or small insects, getting lodged in their ears.

Other underlying issues, like tumors, polyps, or neurological disorders, can also result in this behavior.

Additionally, certain breeds with long or pendulous ears are more prone to developing conditions like aural hematoma, where blood accumulates between layers of the ear flap.

This condition is the reason that leads to extreme discomfort and head shaking.

What To Do When Your Dog Keeps Shaking Its Head

what does it mean when dogs shake their head

What to do with your dog head shake? If your dog keeps shaking its head excessively, it is important to address the issue promptly to ensure its well-being.

Here are some steps you can take.

Inspect the ears: Gently examine your dog’s ears to see if there are any visible signs of swelling, redness, discharge, or stuck foreign objects.

I usually use an ear cleaner to flush out the foreign objects or debris that irritate my pet.

But once you notice something abnormal or suspect an ear infection, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian for a thorough examination.

Avoid self-diagnosis or treatment: While it may be tempting to try over-the-counter remedies or home remedies, it is essential to avoid self-diagnosis and treatment.

Inappropriate or ineffective treatments can worsen the condition or mask the underlying issue.

Consult a veterinarian: Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to have your dog’s ears examined.

The veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination to identify the cause of the head shaking.

They may take samples for microscopic analysis, perform an ear swab, or recommend additional diagnostic tests if necessary. Sometimes, it might require surgery.

Follow veterinary recommendations: Based on the veterinarian’s diagnosis, follow their recommended treatment plan diligently.

This may include medicated ear drops, oral medications, or other specific treatments depending on the underlying cause.

Administer the prescribed medications as directed, adhering to the recommended dosage and duration.

How To Clean Dog’s Ears

Cleaning your dog’s ears is an important part of their overall hygiene and can help prevent ear infections and other ear-related issues.

Step 1: Before you start cleaning, let your dog sniff and inspect the ear-cleaning supplies. This will help them become more comfortable and less anxious during the process.

Step 2: Gently hold your dog’s head and lift its ear flap, and you can see its ear canal. Carefully examine the ear for any redness, swelling, discharge, or signs of irritation.

Step 3: Follow the instructions on the cleaning solution bottle and apply the recommended amount to the ear canal.

Be cautious not to insert the applicator too deeply since this might trigger discomfort or injury.

Gently massage the ear’s base for about 20-30 seconds to allow the solution to work and loosen any debris.

Step 4: Using a cotton ball or gauze pad, gently wipe away the excess ear-cleaning solution and any visible dirt or debris out of its ear canal.

Avoid using cotton swabs since they might push debris further into the ear or damage the ear canal.

Step 5: Repeat for the other ear. Ensure you use a new and clean gauze pad or cotton ball and avoid cross-contamination.

Note: Throughout the process, offer praise, gentle reassurance, and treats to keep your dog calm and reward them for their cooperation.

Positive reinforcement helps create a positive association with ear cleaning and makes future sessions easier.

Natural Ear Infection Remedies Procedure In Dogs

Some Notes

Do not try a home treatment if the ear of your dog is bloated and maybe uncomfortable.

Make sure the ear infection is minor and in the early stage by first consulting your veterinarian.

In that case, your veterinarian could agree to let your dog treat his ear infection at home.

Cleaning the target region of filth and debris before administering a solution to sick tissue can make it much easier to acquire adequate coverage.

Some Home Remedies

I also used some home remedies for my furry friend. The following natural treatments for ear infections may be taken into account:

  • Apply cooled green tea to the ear with a natural, non-synthetic cotton ball and clean it. As the tea may wash the dirt farther into the canal, avoid pouring it into the ear.
  • Use a small amount of olive oil to clean your dog’s ears. Using a cotton ball and a few drops of solution, gently massage the ear while applying a few drops to it.
  • Your dog’s ears will be effectively cleaned using a cotton ball with coconut oil and hydrogen peroxide.
  • To cleanse the ears and prevent infection, mix equal parts water and apple cider vinegar.

If possible, you can bathe the dog in vinegar to clean its whole  body. However, avoid doing so if the ear tissue is still sore.

The veterinarians should examine any ears that are inflamed and have skin breaks.

In this case, they can provide you with a calming antibiotic to treat your furry friend’s ears effectively.

Suppose the infection condition is more severe; your dog must be sedated so that discomfort can be minimized while the ear is being treated.

Pouring liquid into your dog’s burst ear drum could be extremely hazardous. Veterinarians must visually examine the canal to determine whether the animal’s eardrum is healthy.

How To Prevent Ear Diseases In Dogs

dog always shaking head

Preventing ear diseases in dogs is crucial to maintain their overall ear health and well-being.

Here is a list of preventive approaches you can follow to reduce the risk of ear diseases in your canine companion.

  • Regularly examine your dog’s ears for signs of redness, swelling, discharge, or odor.
  • Clean your dog’s ears appropriately using veterinarian-approved ear-cleaning solutions.
  • Avoid overcleaning, as it can disrupt the natural balance of the ear.
  • Dry your dog’s ears thoroughly after water activities or baths.
  • Manage allergens that may contribute to ear problems by adjusting their diet or avoiding environmental triggers.
  • Maintain good grooming practices, including keeping the hair in the ear zone trimmed and regular brushing.
  • Take precautions to prevent ear trauma or injuries.
  • Schedule regular check-ups at the vet for overall ear health assessment.
  • Provide a balanced and nutritious diet to support your dog’s immune system and ear health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Dogs Shake Their Heads When They’re Happy?

No, dogs generally do not shake their heads when they’re happy.

Head shaking in dogs can be a sign of various things, such as ear discomfort, irritation, infection, or other medical issues.

It’s important to observe the context and any accompanying symptoms to determine the cause of head shaking in dogs.

Why Does My Dog Keep Shaking Its Head Only At Night?

The nighttime is when ear mite activity is at its peak, so when your dog gets any unwelcome visitors, they may shake their heads a lot.

There are highly efficient treatments that will get rid of an ear mite infestation.

Your canines can resume their path toward a restful night’s sleep with a brief trip to the veterinarian!

What Can I Put In My Dog’s Ears To Soothe Them?

To soothe your dog’s ears, you can use veterinarian-approved ear-cleaning solutions or natural remedies such as diluted apple cider vinegar, aloe vera gel, calendula tincture, grapefruit seed extract, oregano oil, mullein drops, etc.

However, it’s important to consult your veterinarian before using any product to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your dog’s specific condition.

Is A Head Shake Different From A “Shake Off”?

Yes, they are different.

A head shake involves the dog quickly moving its head from side to side or up and down, often accompanied by ear flapping.

It can be a response to irritation or an attempt to dislodge something from the ears.

Meanwhile, a “shake off” is when it shakes its entire body, usually after a stressful or exciting situation, as a way to relieve tension or reset its state.

The Bottom Line

Why do dogs shake their heads after you pet them?

The head shake behavior exhibited by dogs after being fondled can have multiple meanings depending on the context and individual dog.

It could be a way to dislodge any discomfort or irritants.

Understanding your dog’s body language and paying attention to any accompanying signs of discomfort or health issues is crucial in interpreting their head-shaking behavior accurately.

Remember to consult your veterinarian if you have concerns about your dog’s well-being.


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Hi I am Mitchell. Dog Growth is a blog about dog caring and training where I share my experiences to my community. Hope you enjoy it!

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