Why do Jack Russells shake?

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Lot’s of dog owners have recently asked me ‘Why do Jack Russells shake?’.  It’s important to look at the context when your terrier is shaking; so let’s take a look at the main reasons here:


Jack Russells are active, lively little dogs and there is nothing they like more than hunting.  When they are expecting an opportunity to hunt, it may be that they’ve seen a mouse twitch the grass or they know the cues you are showing that they are going to get a chance to hunt.

Other reasons that may cause them to shake with excitement is the sheer joy that you are about to take them for a walk.   Stud dogs will often shake with anticipation when they know they are about to meet a bitch. 

Jack Russells are one of the small breeds that have a fast metabolism and are often hyperactive.  The shaking or trembling you see is just part of their excitement response.  

They are wet!

Jack Russells and most dogs actually shake when they are wet to dry themselves off. So you will notice your dog shaking from side to side after he has been swimming or when he gets out of the bath. This is completely normal and natural dog behaviour.

Stress and Anxiety

Although Jack Russells are curious, bold, fun little dogs even they can suffer from stress.  Sometimes stress or stressful situations can cause your Jack Russell to shake.  Generally, they are less prone to stress and anxiety than a lot of other dogs, but they can become stressed, anxious and frustrated.

Shaking that is a result of stress or anxiety is likely to be due to situations like separation anxiety from being left at home alone, being crated when they have not been carefully introduced, a visit to the vet.  Frequently, this type of shaking will be accompanied by panting and drooling.

To help your Jack Russell overcome the stress or anxiety you will need to discover what is the cause.

Actual Fear

Shaking from fear is very closely aligned to shaking due to stress or anxiety.  The actual fear though is more likely to be things like thunder storms, other loud bangs or fear from something they perceive as a genuine threat.

They will show typical signs of extra adrenaline in their sympathetic nervous system, meaning that the shaking will be accompanied by other adrenaline symptoms such as wild looking eyes, pacing, panting, pinning back their ears and tucking their tails down.

Feeling Cold

Because they are small dogs with a fast metabolism they often feel the cold.  Your terrier may be shaking because he or she is cold. Short coated varieties are most likely to feel the cold.

Muscle Tremor

It is not unusual for a Jack Russell to display shaking of their rear legs, frequently one leg only is affected and you may notice it happen at times of excitement or for no apparent reason.  In any other breed, it’s something that you’d get checked out by a vet, but Jack Russell’s are prone to this little tremor and if it is not severe and they don’t seem concerned or in pain, just general monitoring until their next annual check up is all that is usually required. 

Many Jack Russells live long and active lives with this tremor.

Old Age or Health

It’s comparatively rare, but just like any other canine; terriers could develop neurological problems as they age or occasionally even when they are younger.  Any new, unexplained shaking or tremors should be checked by your vet. 

I hope that you enjoyed this article on ‘Why do Jack Russells shake?’ If you enjoyed reading it then you might also like to read about Jack Russell Behaviour.

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