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Why do Greyhounds and Whippets shiver so much?

Greyhound dog

Why do Greyhounds and Whippets shake?

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Greyhounds are known for their sleek athleticism, super-fast speeds and slender physique. But, why do they seem to shiver and shake so much?

By Karen Wild, CCAB Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist

Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:30

Traditionally bred as racing dogs, these lovable creatures are now increasingly common as family pets thanks to the rise in adoption of retired greyhounds. A Greyhound’s racing “career” is usually over by the time they’re around four years of age, meaning this gentle breed is a common sight in rehoming shelters.

Despite spending their working lives racing, any Greyhound owner will attest to the fact that once they’re off the track, their favourite pastime is snoozing on the couch! But, they do exhibit some behaviours that are distinctive for their breed, namely: shivering. If you’ve spotted your sighthound shivering and shaking, and you’re wondering why, then read on.

Why does my Greyhounds shake?

There could be a number of reasons why your Greyhound is shaking. Firstly, they’re slim, muscled dogs and many of their muscles are in their flanks. The trembling that takes place could be a perfectly healthy way of building and warming up muscle. There are other dogs that shake in this way but thanks to the very short coat of the Greyhound, their shaking may be more evident.

Dog breed profile: The Greyhound

Why do dogs shiver when they’re not cold? Is my Greyhound nervous?

The short answer is - possibly. Some greyhounds, just like all dogs, can feel nervous and sensitive to events, and shaking can be their way of telling you that they’re not happy in their current situation.

It can also be down to excitement, so it’s not always that something is wrong. If your Greyhound is shaking and wagging their tail when you come through the door then you can feel pretty sure that they’re excited to see you!

Learn more about anxiety in dogs

How can I calm a nervous Greyhound?

If your Greyhound is showing signs of stress or nervousness, then it’s your job to help him or her feel more secure. Learn to recognise signs of stress in your dog and remove them calmly from situations that make them uncomfortable.

Don’t try to force your dog to get used to an unpleasant situation, as this will add to their anxiety and could lead to destructive and phobic behaviours. It also teaches them to lose trust in you, too. Instead, ensure they feel safe first and foremost and then very gradually and slowly introduce them to situations whilst rewarding calm behaviour. It’s a good idea to make a list of situations that could be problematic for them, and work through each part of the list pairing it with something your Grehound enjoys and finds rewarding. You may need specialist guidance for this, so do ask your Vet to refer you to a clinical animal behaviourist.

Why does my Whippet shiver?

Like Greyhounds, Whippets can feel the cold. Be prepared to have a selection of clothing and warm blankets for these often sensitive little dogs. Remember that they don’t have a big fluffy fur coat of their own, so an extra layer is often welcome.

Dog breed profile: The Whippet

Should I put clothes on my dog in winter?

Both Whippets and Greyhounds (including Italian Greyhounds) have very little body fat meaning they’re more susceptible to weather extremes. A Greyhound’s body needs to work harder to stay warm during the colder months and exposure to colder temperatures can aggravate injuries, chills and respiratory and sinus problems. In short, keeping your dog warm when they leave the house is a very good idea.

What sort of clothes should my dog wear?

A good, insulated winter coat is great for the colder months. The extra layer of warmth is important to prevent hypothermia, and Greyhounds and Whippets should wear jackets for colder walks. Warm blankets and heated bedding can be a great choice too, especially for older dogs or those with existing health problems.

Try to give your sighthound plenty of choices of where to sleep. If they are always diving under the blankets, or trying to snuggle close to you, there's a chance they are feeling a bit chilly!

What to do if your dog is still shaking

If your dog doesn’t appear to be anxious and isn’t cold then it might be a good idea to pay your local vet a visit. A vet should be able to tell fairly easily if this is normal Greyhound behaviour or if there’s an underlying health issue.

What’s wrong if my dog is shivering?

Hopefully, knowing a little more about shaking in Greyhounds and Whippets has put your mind at ease but if you have any further concerns or if this behaviour comes on suddenly or is accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting or abnormal breathing then do get to the vets straight away. It’s important to always get any health problems checked as soon as you can, so do your very best for these lovely dogs.