Why Do Dogs Shake Their Toys?

Tugging and chasing toys is an instinctive behavior in dogs, and so is shaking them. By shaking, we don’t mean a gentle type of shake but more of a powerful thrashing that involves your do’s entire body. The history of this behavior can be traced back to the dog’s ancestors, whose survival depended on hunting.

For over 20,000 years, we have tinkered about every aspect of a dog’s genetic makeup. Breeders have shaped our pets into hunting buddies, sheepherders, expert sniffers, and pugs. Natural instincts such as the drive to hunt, attack and eviscerate prey have also been altered but not entirely eliminated. 

In this piece, we dig deeper into why dogs shake toys in their mouths vigorously.

Reasons Why Dogs Shake Their Toys

Often than not, when your dog carefully selects a toy then starts trashing or shaking them in their mouth, it looks harmless, fun, or even comical. However, the habitual nature behind this behavior still raises questions among most dog owners. Here are some reasons that will help you better understand this behavior:

Behavioral instincts

Both historically and genetically, dogs are natural hunters. For dogs to survive in the wild, they hunted small animals like mice, rats, squirrels, and rabbits. In order to kill their prey, they would shake it vigorously to break its neck or spine. Domesticated dogs inherited this basic instinct from their ancestors and, on occasion, still, need to ‘attack’ their toys. When they shake their toys, they mimic this action that wild dogs and wolves use to kill their prey.


Even though the roots of shaking their toy lies in base instinct, your dog also shakes their toy because it’s simply fun. You may have observed that your dog may sometimes grab a toy, make a dash towards you, and start vigorously shaking it. 

This is just their way of saying, ‘Look at me! Let’s play!’ If you play fetch with your dog’s toy, you may also notice them shaking their head as they rush back to you, which is also another element of play. If you abruptly stop a game of tug before your dog is contented, they may shake their toy to tempt or taunt you back into playing with them.


While most dogs shake their toys vigorously when playing, some do it to display aggression. The best way to differentiate this is with their posture as they shake their toy. If they lower their upper body or bound about playfully when shaking the toy, then he is having a bit of fun. However, if his head is raised, jumping up slightly, or shaking the toy over a small animal or you, the behavior could be aggressive. 

This behavior could be followed by shaking smaller pets or young children and biting. It is very important to stop aggressive shaking behavior. Work with an animal behaviorist or vet to stop the behavior.  


Frustration and boredom are also good motivations for your dog to shake their toy. Dogs that are left alone for long periods of time tend to experience severe separation anxiety that could lead to this behavior. Frustration and boredom don’t just stop at eviscerating toys and could lead to the destruction of pillows, blankets, and other household things. The best ways to curb this behavior would be to shower your dog with attention, exercise together, ensure he is adequately occupied with chew toys and puzzle toys to keep him busy when you aren’t around. 

Why Does My Dog Carry His Toy Around?

Often, dogs that carry around a toy are like kids who carry around their favorite doll. They do this because the toy is reassuring, and it offers them either comfort or confidence. For other dogs, it is simply to provide a means of engaging in play with you and other family members. If your dog approaches you with a ball or tug rope when you come in or stand, they are simply letting you know they are ready to play. 

Is There a Problem with Dogs Shaking Toys?

Generally, it is okay for your dog to shake a toy or tug rope. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • Dogs and puppies known to shake and tear up soft toys should not be allowed to play unsupervised.
  • After a toy has been shaken and torn up, it is advisable to pick up the stuffing to ensure your dog doesn’t eat it. Eating stuffing can cause life-threatening obstruction.
  • If your dog is prone to neck problems, they should be discouraged from shaking their toys. 

Engaging in innocent predatory behavior such as shaking toys vigorously is a way for your dog to expend energy and satisfy certain urges that they couldn’t otherwise sate without play. If your dog growls at a person when they do this and takes an aggressive stance, contact an animal behaviorist immediately. Otherwise, it is harmless behavior. 

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