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Yorkie Shaking, Trembling, Shivering

Why Yorkies Shake, Tremble and Shiver

This section is going to discuss the issue of a Yorkshire Terrier puppy or dog shaking. Some refer to this as trembling or shivering. It is usually a full body shuddering vibration. It may last for just a few seconds or it may last for quite a while, usually until an owner makes some sort of change that calms the shaking down. 

Some Yorkies will shake for seemingly no reason, leaving owners confused and worried. Others will begin to shake under certain circumstances, such as being held in the air, leaving owners to wonder if their puppy or dog is truly scared of the movement, or the height…

We'll look into all of the reasons and situations that can cause a Yorkie puppy or dog to shake; in many cases, with some simply easy steps, the shaking can stop.

Reason #1 - Trouble Regulating Body Temperature

While it may seem obvious to some, it doesn't really cross the minds of others; however a Yorkie - and particularly a puppy or an older senior dog - can easily become chilled. Why? A lot of dog breeds have double coats - this means that they have a thick, dense undercoat and a longer, course overcoat. These double coats work together to provide insulation.

The Yorkshire Terrier breed only has 1 coat. This in itself means that this breed is not as protected during any chilly weather, windy weather, cold rain and certainly not against brutal, freezing temperatures in the winter.

Additionally, some dogs (most of them) have fur. The Yorkshire Terrier has hair. What is the difference? A strand of fur (which is double composition) is thicker than a strand of hair (which is single composition). This adds to the fact that a Yorkie will feel the cold much more so than other dogs breeds with either a double coat or even dog breeds with a single coat of fur.
Lastly, the follicle cores in a dog's fur coat are thicker than those of a Yorkie and those follicle cores work toward insulating the dog.

Therefore, in many cases, a Yorkie will shake because he is cold. Shivering happens when a dog's body reacts to the cold; the core body temperature drops below normal which results in a shivering reflex that is the body's way of warming up. Muscle groups around the vital organs (heart, liver, lungs, and pancreas) shake in very small movements - referred to as shivering, shaking or trembling.

Younger Yorkie puppies and older senior dogs will be more susceptible to temperature changes than healthy adult dogs; however each Yorkie is an individual and will react differently. (Similar to how a wife may be freezing while her husband is sweating and they are fighting over the setting on the heat or A/C).

For this reason, an owner may feel warm but a Yorkie may be shaking due to a slight drop in core body temperature. Times when this may be most apparent are:
  • When wet - after a bath or when out in the rain. When you are getting ready to give your Yorkie a bath, have all supplies ready at hand. And this includes a warm, soft, absorbent towel. To prevent shivering, immediately wrap your Yorkie in the towel after removing him from the water and while softly hugging the dog, begin to gently scrunch the towel into the coat (rubbing causes split ends). You can let your puppy or dog down to do the "dog shake" to remove excess water, but then use the back side of the towel to offer some warmth again, as your Yorkie gradually gets used to the air. Also see: Grooming
tiny Yorkshire Terrier
Pierre Love, 6 months old
Photo courtesy of Shannon Graves and Lovey McIntosh
  • Windy days - On a cool day, the wind can cause a "real feel" of up to 10 degrees cooler then the air temperature. When deciding whether your Yorkie needs protection from the cold, do keep the "real feel" number in mind and not the air temperature.
  • Drafty locations - If a doggie bed or resting area is near a window or door, there may be a draft that is causing a puppy or dog to feel cold. It is suggested to either block the draft or to move the location of the doggie bed.
  • Cold Days - Many owners ask us at what temperature does a dog need to wear a sweater or coat. A good rule of thumb is that for this breed, being a single coated dog with hair and not fur, when the air is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius) it is time to put a warm layer of clothing on your puppy or dog.
What Kind of Clothes Should Be Put on a Yorkie - It can be a bit misleading to see dog clothes, because so many of them are cute and it can take an owner away from the true reason for the clothing. #1 is protection! Doggie shoes and boot protect a Yorkie's paws from hot pavement and irritating pebbles. 

Sweaters, shirts and coats protect a Yorkie puppy or dog from the cold and the wind. Rain coats keep the thin coat dry, hats can do a great deal to keep a dog warm and visors protect a dog's eyes (and nose which can become sunburned causing peeling and dryness) from the hot sun.
Therefore, while many clothes will be simply adorable and you may think, "My Yorkie will look SO cute in that!" do remember that the main reason for the articles is to keep your puppy or dog from shivering. And if he/she looks amazingly cute as a result, that's great too!
*** For excellent deals on cute, adorable clothing for the Yorkie, look to the Yorkie Specialty Shoppe.
Yorkshire Terrier blog image
"Woof, rufff, rrrr...arf, umphf!"


"Tweets for treats...? ... or share for... ahh... a pear???...

Well, you get the gist! Show me some love & share this site before you read on."
Reason # 2 - Hypoglycemia

This is a rapid drop in blood sugar levels and in severe cases, this can be fatal - especially for very young puppies. For older Yorkies (3 months and older), the puppy may shake and tremble quite a bit, leaving owners to wonder if the dog is cold or scared, when in fact there is a possible dangerous imbalance of sugars in the bloodstream.

What causes this? For young Yorkshire Terrier puppies, often it is stress (moving to a new home, being introduced to too many new environments, stimulants or situations in a short amount of time) or a fast change in food that often happens during the transition from breeder to new owner. This is not to say that a puppy should not be introduced to new things - socialization is a very important part of healthy development and leads to a well behaved dog! However, puppies can become overwhelmed and may need to go at a slower pace if an owner is a bit too enthusiastic.

In regard to food, the golden rule is that switching over to a new food should take 4 weeks, with gradual changes made every 7 days. Lastly, long periods of time without food can cause this and for this reason, we always recommend free feeding up to 3 months old, 3 meals from that point on and at least 2 meals (plus snacks) per day even for adults. Never mind that other breeds can eat once per day; most toy breeds including the Yorkie should have at least 2 healthy meals.

When Hypoglycemia sets in, a dog will shake, shiver and tremble, in a very similar way as if the Yorkie was very cold. It will be an uncontrollable shivering that takes hold of the entire body. Other signs - which may occur at the same time or soon after - are weakness, dizziness, trouble walking. Left untreated, a dog can slip into a coma and then the final stage is fatal if not treated.

How to Prevent / Treat This - All owners of toy breed dogs should have honey on hand. Have it at your house and have a small amount on you if you are out and about with your Yorkie. Some sources recommend Karo syrup - yet we must warn against this. Why? Because it can act as a laxative! And this is the last thing that a dog needs when already shaking and trembling due to low blood sugar! So, honey is the #1 step in this. It is best to rub a small amount directly onto the gums of the puppy. This should stabilize him/her enough in order to be brought to the closest veterinarian or animal hospital. Why not just treat this at home? Because you don't want to take a chance - In moderate to severe cases (which owners cannot diagnose from home) a dog will need an IV solution to stabilize blood sugar levels. When treated in this way, most Yorkies are just fine afterward.
Reason #3- Fear 

Fear comes in all forms. One Yorkie may shake when introduced to a new person and another may do just fine with that but tremble when being held up in the air. Note: Many new puppies shake when being picked up and this can be resolved by approaching a puppy from the side before gently bringing him onto your lap. 

The keys to know are this.

#1 - Immediately stop whatever is causing your Yorkie to shake, even if this means politely excusing yourself from the company of your neighbor or leaving the dog park.  A puppy or dog that trembles due to a situation will not simply "get over it".

#2- This does NOT mean that you will now avoid that situation. It does mean that you have a new job to do! And this can actually be a great bonding experience for owner and dog. Whatever elements cause a dog to shake will go onto the list of things to socialize your Yorkie to. 
Yorkshire Terrier 18 month old dog
Pokey, 4 month old medical alert dog
Photo courtesy of Lizette Mierisch
Personally, we find that socializing training is very rewarding - It allows you to gradually teach your dog some very important elements about the words and at the same time you can literally watch the self confidence in a dog grow. It is truly wonderful. 

Socialization training is - on a basic level - very easy. It is a slow, deliberate introduction to certain elements. For example, a dog that shakes when being lifted into the air may need to begin simply sitting in your lap and feeling comfortable with your hands gently around him. This graduates to lifting him against your chest with soft, encouraging words and then placing him down. This progresses into slow, easy lifts just a few inches away, followed by praise and reward. And this continues until the puppy is feeling confident and trusting enough to be lifted higher. 

With this said, socialization to many other more complicated elements such as other dogs, visitors to the home, the dog park, neighborhood dogs and more involves a book worth of steps. Literally! We have a great Socialization chapter in the YorkieInfoCenter Book and alternatively, we strongly recommend Faye Dunningham's highly rated book: The Well Socialized Dog: Step-by-Step Socialization Training for Puppies and Dogs (both in Kindle and Hard copy format and found on Amazon).

While shaking due to fear will not physically harm a dog, it does harm the puppy or dog's self-esteem and basic confidence level. A dog that has to ensure being afraid on a daily or even a weekly basis will be a skittish nervous dog. Therefore, for situation that can be avoided without limiting a dog's world and preventing interaction with elements that a dog should be exposed to, should be avoided when possible. For the remaining times that a Yorkie may shake in reaction to an element, please do consider helping your Yorkie learn to tolerate that person, place or thing in order to have an emotionally healthy dog.
Reason #4- Excitement

Less common, but still a reason that some Yorkshire Terrier puppy and dogs shake is pure excitement. Sometimes, a Yorkie may have so much happiness and so much eagerness that his whole body shakes in anticipation. This is great in one way - it means that you are offering things to your dog that he truly appreciates and your dog finds joy in life! As long as the shaking does not last long (i.e. if your Yorkie shakes when he sees you get out a ball to play fetch and then acts just fine moments later when you are out in the yard playing with him) this is nothing to worry about.

The only time that you may want to work on things is if that shaking and excitement goes over the edge and progresses to excitement urination or other negative, unwanted behaviors or actions.
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