Why Does My Dog Shake Its Toys?

Written by Cory Eckert

If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’ve more than likely seen them shake toys, pillows, or shoes back and forth. Have you ever wondered why so many dogs share this quirky behavior? 

That's exactly what we'll be discussing in this article.

Shaking things is part of a dog’s natural instinct. You can trace this behavior all the way back to dog's early wild ancestors.

Looking back, we understand that this behavior actually comes from their prey drive. When catching small prey such as mice, squirrels, rabbits, or birds, a wild dog would shake the prey to dispatch it quickly.

Should I Be Worried?

When you hear where this behavior comes from it can be a bit alarming. You might be wondering things like...

  • Should I try to stop this behavior?
  • Does this mean my beloved dog is trying to murder his favorite toy?
  • Will this lead to an aggression problem later?

Let's be very clear here... This behavior is NOT A PROBLEM you need to be concerned about. Unless of course Fido is shaking your favorite pair of shoes, then you might have a problem!

For domestic dogs, this behavior is only an issue in rare cases. For example, some hunters try to discourage this behavior in their retrievers to avoid having game destroyed during the retrieve.

In almost every other case, when a domesticated dog is exhibiting this behavior, it's simply in playtime mode and the pup is having a good time.

According to NC State's University Animal Behavior Service clinician Dr. Margaret Gruen, "They like the tactile stimulation of a toy hitting the sides of their face. It's just another part of exuberant play." This means, the act of shaking a toy is not for just hunting, but also serves as an element of play. 

Benefits of your Dog Shaking Toys: 

Shaking toys can be a great outlet for your dog to test out their instincts through play and burn off excess energy. Not only that but shaking their toy around helps work on a growing dog's fine motor skills and coordination. And if all that is not enough, it also strengthens the neck, jaw, and overall upper body muscles!

According to The Company of Biologists Ltd, there have been multiple studies that connect the release of calming endorphins in dogs who exercise in general which includes this shaking behavior. So shaking toys is not only for fun, but also may have a calming effect.

looking for a playmate

Sometimes dogs will shake their toys in front of another dog or in front of a person in order to get their attention so that they can play together.

<-- Here's a video of a dog bringing a toy to its owner.

What games can we play if my dog likes shaking their toys? 


A good game to play with your dog when they are in the toy shaking mood is tug-of-war. During this game, a lot of dogs may pull and thrash to get the upper hand.  

Be sure to let you pup win a game of tug now and then to avoid frustration and keep it fun for them so they don't lose interest.

Flush Out The Prey 

A dog's play time behaviors can often be based on its hunting instincts. Because of this, another fun game that they may like is hiding the toy in an accessible spot for your dog to flush out. Squeak it if necessary to give them a clue of where it is. ​

This type of play is not only engaging and fun for you dog but is a great activity to stimulate their mind (which is a vital part of a healthy pup).

Does Toy shaking mean my dog is aggressive? 

No, shaking a toy is not a sign of aggression. This is normal behavior. During play and shaking, dogs may have their butts in the air, upper body lowered, and tail wagging and will sometimes even growl while they shake their toys.

Enjoy the cuteness of it all and rest assured, even with the vocal gymnastics your pup might be doing, this is perfectly fine and you need not worry.

What Toys Are Good For Shaking?

Get you dog sturdy toys that match the size of his imaginary prey.  Find an appropriate sized toy for your dog that can potentially used for tugging. Dogs love shaking ropes and plush toys.

For a durable toy that comes in all different sizes and animal types,  I personally recommend getting Fluff and Tuff toys if your dog is an average chewer. They are made in the U.S. and durable. Not only that they have a bunch of cute options!

These are one of the sturdiest plush toys I've ever found for my dog.  Yes, they are more expensive (at $10-25 a piece) than the average toy, but they will last longer and are machine washable. I have Fluff and Tuff Toys that are 4 year old that are used on a daily basis. They are my go to plush toys! 

  • Thick durable tuff web mesh liner. 
  • Non-toxic poly fill 
  • All seams are concealed and double stitched
  • Eyes are embroidered for safety

What is your dog's favorite toy to shake? We love a recommendation to test out! Comment down below. 

About the author

Cory Eckert

Cory is the co-creator of GoldenRetrieverLove.com and a life long dog enthusiast. From training livestock dogs as a child to working with obedience classes as an adult, it's hard to imagine Cory without a dog. Currently enjoying being a dog parent to Remi (a chocolate lab) and Annie (a golden retriever).