If you are new at dog parenting you are bound to get flabbergasted by some of the behaviors that your dog might pursue, sometimes you witness the massacre of the toys by vigorous shaking that you so lovingly brought for your pup and it leaves you wondering, “What is going on inside that furry head?” you must ponder, why does your dog shake his toys?
Dogs are one of the smartest species to walk the earth, Dogs, just like their ancestors, wolves, are predatory animals. Dogs were domesticated thousands of years ago.
Over the years, we have done a rather fantastic job in molding dogs as friendlier species. Now, we have shaped them into our daily life companions, sheepherders, hunting partners, guard dogs.
We’ve changed the way wolves appear through decades of selective breeding: from as big as an 80-pound predator to as little as a teacup Chihuahua.
For example, we picked herding breeds such as Australian shepherds and border collies for stalking and chasing but not for attacking prey.
We have chosen sporting dogs such as retrievers and spaniels for their ability to sniff, check, and catch prey but not eviscerate it.
Of all the reasons there are as to why dogs shake their toys, predator drive tops the list. Although dogs have been domesticated they still share this instinct with their ancestors, wolves.
Wolves and dogs in the wild shake their prey vigorously to break its spine rather swiftly thus ending its life, since domesticated dogs have no need for hunting, this instinct rather comes in handy during play.
Your dog may be a cute cuddly ball of fur, but often he still maintains those fundamental instincts and the urge to “attack” his toys. Get him toys that fit his likely prey’s size. For example, for a small dog, a hamster sized toy suitable and for a large breed, a rooster sized toy would be more suitable.
Strong predatory drive in your dog could be dangerous and be a prologue to some accident, fortunately, it can be managed. But before we explain about managing the predatory instinct, we ought to learn what exactly predatory instinct is.
What is Predatory Instinct?
The predatory instincts of our dogs are one thing that makes them fun to play with. You cause his innate predatory instinct to catch objects that move if you throw a ball or a stick and he chases it.
Different actions suggest predatory behavior: hunting (sniffing, tracking, looking, checking, or waiting for prey); stalking; the sequence of attack (chase, pounce/catch, shaking kill, choking kill); and ingestion of post-kill. Eating them is the fundamental motivation to chase objects that move.
Dogs inherited bits of this series. The behaviors are often total and recognizably wolf, but they are strange, unusual, fragments of wolf behaviors more frequently, such as:
- Shaking and dissecting plush dolls instead of animals prey,
- Chasing tennis balls and tires for bicycles.
- Burying food with sofa cushions in between.
It should come as no surprise that some breeds seem to have a predatory instinct that is far stronger than others. Dogs bred purposefully over the years to stalk and kill small animals are far more likely to be candidates for strong chase activity than those with lap-sitting genes.
Just because predatory behavior is normal doesn’t mean that its unacceptable forms are permissible. The death of many poor pet cats, rabbits, chickens, dogs, goats, and other animals, and even humans, has been blamed for predatory actions.
How can you manage the predatory drive?
This behavior could be dangerous and lead to any mishaps. Your best bet to prevent those is altering the environment as required. You will need to keep your dog under your observation at all times and never let him off the leash when outside, allowing you to control him at all times. A muzzle can also prove to be useful in preventing an attack.
You can also negate the stimulus causing your dog to shift into his predatory mode. With proper training, you can help your dog get de-sensitized to that particular temptation.
Other Reasons Why Dogs Shake Their Toys
Most dogs only shake their toys while they are playing, but some use them to display aggression. When he shakes a toy, pay keen attention to your dog’s stance. He’s out for a bit of fun whether he’s bounding around playfully or dropping his upper body while shaking. However, this action could be offensive if he stands up slightly, lifts his head, or shakes a toy over you or a smaller animal.
This can lead him to bite or shaking smaller animals or even young kids, so preventing aggressive shaking behavior is crucial. Work with your veterinarian to come up with a strategy to tackle this behaviour, which may include turning over a deaf leaf, not paying attention when an offensive role is taken, rewarding him with treats and reasonable punishments. But remember you don’t want your doggo to lose his trust in you.
Even though dogs are predatory animals, your dog just likes to shake his toys because it’s hella fun. If your dog is shaking his toy in front of you and runs away as soon as you get up, he probably wants you to chase him. Dogs are intelligent creatures and full of energy. Especially, younger dogs are rife with energy and love to play.
Your dog might also love to fetch the toy that you have thrown for him. Your dog might also shake his toys because he thinks that you have stashed some food inside the toy.
“LET’S IMAGINE” concept:
Unlike humans, dogs are far less evolved and lack the power of imagination. The power that allows young kids to imagine different scenarios, create stories whilst playing games. Unlike kids, dogs cannot imagine scenarios. So they rather shift in their primal state, i.e. predatory instinct.
Dogs take their toys as prey and use play merely as a way to relieve their instincts and sharpen their skills. These skills are not needed as food and shelter are provided by humans. But, it might be a way out for your dog to escape reality and live in his reverie. Thus dogs see a bouncing ball or a squeaky toy as a fleeing bird or squirrel.
Seeking your attention:
Have you ever wondered if you are giving your doggo the attention he needs, what if you’re not? Dogs are social animals and get bored very easily. Having a dog companion is not something everyone can pull off, as uncle Ben said, “With great power, comes great responsibility”, pun intended.
Dogs often shake their toys out of boredom or frustration of being neglected, with the intent of getting noticed. According to ASPCA, this is most frequent in dogs left isolated for lengthy periods or those with extreme fear of separation. This may mean you walling into a huge mess when you get back home from work.
In addition to the clutter, of course, the biggest issue is your doggo unable to stay confined to just his toys, he might move on to your pillows, chairs, slippers, and anything that tickles his fancy. However, this can be resolved by considering daycare for dogs.
Does that mean my dog is NOT safe to play with?
Yes, your dog is absolutely safe to play with, dogs love to play with their toys, this is totally normal. It is quite common for your pup to be shaking his toys and not being out on a killing spree, although you need to keep a keen eye on young kids and smaller animals.
Most dogs shake tier toys just for the sake of endorphins, provided that when a dog chews on toys even during play and exercise, calming endorphins are released, maybe toy shaking also triggers the release of endorphins, making our dogs feel happy and releasing tension.
Dogs are a work of art and you can never fully figure out what’s happening in your doggo’s head. Dogs are very social animals and sometimes leave you in awe with the cute stunts they pull.
The main reason as to why your dog may be shaking his toys is his predator drive, he wants to lie the olden day that is inscribed in his very genetic sequence. NO, that does not mean that your dog will consider you his prey.
You need to establish yourself as the ALPHA of the house, so your dog listens to you. Your dog may also consider maiming his toys as his duty, isn’t that why he was provided with fangs and claws?
Maybe he does it just for fun, out of boredom, and under none of the above-mentioned circumstances, your dog is dangerous to you.