Why Do Boston Terriers Shake or Shiver? Good or Bad?

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by Lily Ferreras


Regardless of the weather conditions, after spending some time around a Boston Terrier, you know that they shake their body a fair bit. But, why do Boston Terriers shake so often?

Boston Terriers shake for various reasons, such as excitement, nervousness, cold temperatures, anxiety, stress or a medical issue.

There are a number of ways you can use to discern the reason for their shaking (or shivering) so you can make are aware of when it’s a concern or not.

Continue reading to find out more 🙂

Why Do Boston Terriers Shake?

Bostons seems to be fond of body wiggling to communicate a variety of matters.

But, what types of shakes are normal and which are not? 

#1 – Excitement

Although Boston Terriers are prone to certain health problems, their shaking or shivering shouldn’t be always a concern.

Excitement is a good cause for shaking.

Boston Terriers get excited pretty easily and are prone to show their “joy”. And what do they do when thrilled? They shake around!

Instead of tail wagging, Boston Terriers wiggle their whole body! I have to say that it’s very amusing to watch such a display of enthusiasm 🙂

How to prevent it? Especially so it doesn’t get out of control… Try to keep greetings calm and short, to avoid overexcitement. You can ask her to sit and then praise her once she’s settled in her sit position.


Now, why address the shaking causes that we should be concerned about:

#2 – Cold Temperature

Boston Terriers can be many things, but comfortable in all temperatures is not their forte.

Due to their thin and short coat, the Boston Terrier doesn’t tolerate cold temperatures. When exposed to cold air, Bostons shiver as a natural response (just like we do).

How to prevent it? Keep your pooch indoors during cold weather, providing her with a warm bed and blanket to snuggle. When stepping outside, put on her a knit sweater or waterproof coat.

For more weather-related care tips, check our Boston Terrier Care in Winter – 8 Tips to Prevent Frostbite blog post.

P.S. Bostons don’t do well with extreme temperatures: getting easily cold due to their coat and also getting hot due to their facial structure. They have Brachycephalic Syndrome, i.e., they are flat-faced. This means that they have smaller nostrils and often suffer from breathing problems.

During hot weather, they are prone to overheating because they cannot regulate their temperature as well as other breeds.

#3 – Anxiety and Nervousness

As part of the companion dog group, Boston Terriers can develop separation anxiety when they spend long hours alone.

Also, they are susceptible to fears (storms and fireworks being the most common sound-related fears for dogs).

In the case of Bostons, their nervousness is expressed with shivers. Other dogs, for example, might:

  • Hide.
  • Flatten their ears.
  • Hide their tails between their legs.

How to prevent it? You can try some separation anxiety training and natural remedies. Check Boston Terrier Separation Anxiety – 16 Things that Help and Boston Terrier Fears and Anxiety – Triggers and Remedies blog posts.


#4 – Stress

Dogs, just like us, can also suffer from stress. One way Boston Bull Terriers deal with stress is to simply shake.

Other common signs that your dog might show alongside shivering are excessive shedding, licking, drooling, scratching and urinary accidents.

How to prevent it? Aim to reduce the cause of your dog’s stress by heading over to our Dog Stress blog post to know how to help your stressed-out pooch.

#5 – Medical Issues

According to WebMD, dogs can tremble for many reasons, and some may be symptoms of something serious:

  • Distemper: Caused by a virus and it mostly occurs in puppies and adolescent dogs that haven’t been fully vaccinated. It’s a common cause of tremors in dogs. Other signs include eye and nose discharge, fever, and coughing.
  • Poisoning: There are many substances that are toxic for dogs: cleaning and other household products, plants, medicines, human foods (like chocolate) and actual poison. Shivers can be a sign of poisoning. If your Boston Bull ingests any of these, call your vet right away. 
  • Seizure: Epilepsy, a neurological disorder, can affect dogs and manifest as trembles, muscle twitching, drooling, foaming at the mouth, etc. 
  • Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS): GTS symptoms usually start between 9 months and 2 years of age and the causes are not clear.
  • Nausea: Motion sickness, medication, eating too much, or eating something toxic can cause nausea in dogs. It can also be a symptom of kidney or liver disease. Shaking may be a sign that your dog is nauseous, especially if accompanied by salivating more than usual, yawning, and vomiting.
  • Old age and pain: Senior dogs might suffer from tremors in their front legs. The trembling can be accompanied by pain, so take your pooch to your vet if this happens.

If your Boston Terrier’s trembling is unusual (more than her regular occurrences) or/and is accompanied by vomiting, nose discharge, or other signs, take your pooch immediately to your vet.


Final Thoughts

If you are truly worried about your Boston Terrier shaking, there’s no need because most times is a normal response for this type of breed and the shaking itself causes no harm.

Sometimes, I wonder if it’s part of who they are and there’s no big reason behind this behaviour. I used to have a Boxer who would often shake, as Boston Terriers do.

Also, some cheeky Chihuahuas shake to get attention! (Yes, really!)

I was fascinated by this clever female Chihuahua that I met on a train journey. She would shiver and everyone around her believed that she was nervous to be in public transport. Well… not exactly! Her owner explained that she travels daily and she’s totally fine; “she just likes to get petted and she knows how to get attention from strangers” 🙂

As I was sitting next to her owner and we were in conversation, she (the Chihuahua) smoothly made her move from her owner’s lap to the space in-between our chairs, and then on to my lap. Remaining there comfortably and contently, as I caressed her throughout the whole journey!

So, if you know that your dog is not suffering from any illness and she’s not in distress, plus your vet has had a good look at her, sounds like you just got a wiggler in the family!

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