Why Do Dogs Shake Their Heads?

There are a lot of different reasons that might the reason why your dog is shaking their head. Occasionally, it’s merely a part of a dog’s regular behavior, particularly if it happens once in a while.

There is no need for you to be concerned in the case that your dog shakes their head a few times before stopping since this behavior is quite normal.

However, if you have noticed that your dog is doing it a lot more recently, and have noticed other changes in behavior such as increased itching or rubbing on the side of their heads then there may be an underlying issue. 

Here are the most common reasons that your dog may be shaking their head a lot, and what you can do about it. 

Ear Infection

Yeast or bacteria have likely created an infection in your dog’s ears if you notice that they shake their head a lot. Excessive head shaking is one of the biggest symptoms of these kinds of infections. This condition is known as otitis externa. 

If you notice that your dog is shaking their head a lot, you should inspect inside its ears to see if there is any redness, discharge, or swelling. If you see any of these things, your dog may have an ear infection. 

Dogs shake their heads when they have an ear infection to try and shake free the wax or discharge in their ears, as well as try to reduce the itching that comes along with it. 

You should always take your dog to the vet if you suspect an ear infection even if they are not displaying every symptom. This is because certain ear infections may be located too deep inside the ears to be seen visually. 

The vet will examine your dog’s ears and maybe give them a clear-out if needed. If there is an infection, you will need to give them antibiotics until the infection clears up. This is typically in the form of ear drops, which you will have to put in your dog’s ears daily, sometimes twice. 

Ear Mites

Even while ear mite infestations are not as common as ear infections, they can produce symptoms that are virtually identical to those of ear infections. This is especially true in older dogs when ear mite infestations are more likely to occur. 

Because of the discomfort produced by the mites, your dog’s ears may get red, swollen, or make discharge pus, and they may move their heads around a lot to alleviate the pain. 

If you have any reason to believe that your dog is suffering from an ear infection or an infestation of ear mites, you should take them to the veterinarian as soon as you possibly can.

In the case that you have an infestation of ear mites, your veterinarian will do comprehensive flushing of the ear canal. Your vet will most likely prescribe an ear medication for your dog to cure secondary infections. In addition, your pet will most likely be given a treatment for fleas and ticks, which is often helpful in eliminating mites.

They Have Allergies

Just like people, dogs may get allergies. Dogs can have allergic responses to a variety of things, including pollen, dust mites, and even the food that they eat. Itching is a frequent symptom of an allergic reaction, and in certain cases, it can even express itself in the ears. 

This will trigger your dog to scratch behind their ears. If you think that your dog is allergic to the food that they consume, you will need to put them on a special diet to determine whether or not the symptoms improve while they are on the diet. 

Why Do Dogs Shake Their Heads (1)

You should go to your local ve if you have any suspicions that you could be allergic to something in the surrounding environment. In the case of allergies triggered by the environment, your veterinarian can conduct an allergy test on your dog’s skin or blood to identify whether or not they suffer from airborne allergies.

To reduce the itching that is caused by allergies, you will need to clean your dog’s ears, use medicine that has been advised by the veterinarian (most likely an antihistamine or anti-inflammatory), and focus on determining the allergen. 

The most efficient way to treat the symptoms of allergies is to identify the allergen that is giving your dog discomfort and then remove it from its surroundings.


If after taking a bath (see also ‘How to Train Your Dog to Love Baths‘) or going swimming, you notice that your dog is shaking their head, it’s likely that water went into its ears and is causing them discomfort. Cotton balls can be used as a barrier to prevent water from entering your dog’s ears in the first place.

You mustn’t pour water directly over your dog’s head while you are bathing them since this might cause water to get trapped in their ears. To properly clean your dog’s face and head, you should rather make use of a washcloth that has been dipped in water.

 If your dog doesn’t like having cotton balls jammed in their ears while they swim, you may want to ask your veterinarian for suggestions on treatments that might help to dry up your dog’s ears after they’ve been in the water.

Taking precautions to avoid the possibility of water getting into your pet’s ears is the most effective course of action to follow in this situation.

You will need to pay particular attention to keeping the ears clean and dry if you want to avoid getting an ear infection, which may be brought on by having water become trapped in the ear canal. 

If water does become trapped in your dog’s ear, and if they then get an infection because of this, then you will have to take them to the vet so they can get the correct medicine and treatment.


There are many reasons why your dog may shake their head. Often it is just because they have an itch, but if you notice them doing it more often there may be an underlying issue. 

If you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior then it is best to take them to a vet to ensure that everything is ok with their health.

John Lowery

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