Why Does My Dog Shake His Head When He Barks?

Zack Keithy, our author, has been a certified veterinarian technician for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers. Learn more about us here.

Our dogs can be super goofy and do lots of funny things. If you notice that it is vigorously shaking its head and barking, you might think that it is just messing around, but that could be a sign of an issue.

So why does my dog shake his head when he barks?

This can be due to a ear infection that is causing it a lot of discomfort, or there might be something that is lodged inside its ear. Whichever the reason, you need to pay attention to it and possibly send your dog to your vet for further inspection.

Read on to find out what you should do and when is it necessary to see a vet.

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Reasons That May Cause Your Dog to Shake Its Head While Barking

Reasons That May Cause Your Dog to Shake Its Head While Barking 

While your dog may sometimes shake its head in excitement or anticipation of a play session, if your dog happens to shake its head vigorously while barking, you may want to have its ears checked out.

As the ear and throat canals are interlinked, certain medical or non-medical conditions may cause him to feel the unwelcome presence of an irritant when it barks.

This could be due to the fact that dogs are physically closer to the ground in height hence they are more susceptible to ear infections or allergies caused by ground insects, pollens, mites, and dirt.

This build-up of debris could cause harm to them if ignored or undiagnosed.

While ear infections caused by bacteria or yeast presence may be the reason why your dog shakes its head while barking, growths like polyps may also be another reason why your dog is acting so strangely especially as the growth gets bigger in size.

This could affect its hearing ability and causes unnecessary itching.

Other times, your dog could be barking and shaking its head excessively to get rid of trapped water stuck in its ears.

It could also be trying to dislodge a foreign object as well.

The simple act of shaking and barking is a natural mechanism for your dog in its attempt to remove it.

Read next: Why Do Dogs Flip Their Ears Inside Out? 10 Reasons You Should Know

Common Dog Ear Infections

Otitis media

Otitis media, or inflammation of the middle ear structures, is typically brought on by an infection spreading from the external ear canal or by a foreign item entering the eardrum.

It is also possible, though uncommon, for an infection to spread to these locations through the bloodstream.

Inflammation of the inner ear structures may result from middle ear inflammation (otitis interna) and deafness and lack of balance may follow from this.

Otitis externa

The layer of cells that lines the external ear canal becomes inflamed, resulting in this disorder.

Headshaking, smelly odor, skin redness, swelling, scratching, increased discharge, and scaly skin are all warning signs.

Depending on the reason or severity of the illness, the ear canal may be uncomfortable or itchy.

Otitis interna

Otitis interna, an inflammation of the inner ear, is typically brought on by an infection.

Although fungus (also known as yeast) can be a factor in an inner ear infection, bacteria are the most frequent infectious agent.

It can eventually result in an issue in the inner ear and increase the chance of a bacterial infection if your dog has ear mites in the external ear canal.

Similar to this, whether a diseased ear canal or a benign polyp is emerging from the middle ear, inner ear infections may occur.

A foreign object, such as a grass seed, can potentially cause an inner ear bacterial infection.

This condition is rarely seen in dogs though.

Doggy says, read this next: German Shorthaired Pointer Not Eating? Follow These 8 Steps

Symptoms of Ear Infection in Dogs

Here are some of the most common signs that your dog is suffering from an ear infection:

  • Odor coming from the ear
  • The interior of the ear is reddish
  • Head trembling or swaying
  • Rubbing one’s ear against a wall or piece of furniture
  • Pawing or scratching at the ear
  • Bloody, brown, or yellowish discharge
  • Ear swelling
  • Scabs or crusts directly behind the ear

Other indications that your dog has a more serious ear infection include:

  • Loss of coordination or balance
  • Indicators of hearing loss
  • Circling ineffectively
  • Strange eye motions

Doggy says, consider reading this too: Dog Foaming at the Mouth and Shaking [When to See a Vet?]

Can Dogs Hurt Their Ears From Barking?

Can Dogs Hurt Their Ears From Barking?

Excessive barking may hurt your dog’s ears and causes hearing damage especially if its constant barking exceeds 90 decibels.

Prolonged barking on its end may not just affect him, but the humans and other animals within that hearing range as well.

As both the ears and throat canals are interlinked, high-pitched barking could also cause your dog to experience sore throat and other discomforts too.

One key thing to look out for immediately if you notice such a bizarre pattern from your dog that was not previously shown, is to do a thorough self-check on both its ears.

More often than not, ear irritations could be the culprit behind its sudden, excessive barking. 

Your dog could be experiencing discomfort in its ears and wants to get rid of the irritation through vibrations from his loud barking.

In other words, your dog could be displaying signs of ear discomfort or infection if it starts barking loudly and for a prolonged period of time while shaking its ears.

Barking is a natural response for dogs to cope with such irritations.

Excessive barking can cause permanent deafness to your dog if its initial condition of ear infections or polyps growth goes untreated, so please check your dog’s ears should you feel it is acting strangely and barking excessively.

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Why Does My Dog Shake Its Head When I Talk to It?

There are many reasons why your dog would shake its head when you talk to it.

For one, it could be because it has figured out that by shaking its head, it is establishing an active line of communication between the both of you.

In short, it shows that your dog is paying full attention and listening to you at that moment when you speak to it. 

While that may be an adorable sight, there are also times when your dog shakes its head while listening because there is trapped water or a foreign object lodged somewhere in its ears.

As it realized it cannot hear you properly when you speak, it attempts to shake off the trapped water or foreign objects through excessive head-shaking.

Most times, this simple action is enough to help them successfully get rid of the irritation. 

Other times, your dog’s head shaking may be due to a more serious problem such as an ear infection or polyps growth which may lead to more medical issues ranging from temporary to permanent hearing loss.

If you notice your dog shaking its head more than normal when you speak to it, it would be high time for you to bring it to the vet for a more thorough check.

When Do I Need to Worry About Head Shaking in My Dog?

While some dogs shake their heads out of habit or pure excitement, there are times when a dog’s head-shaking action becomes excessive and needs to be monitored.

If your dog has recently developed this habit out of nowhere, you may want to start monitoring its actions and behaviors more to pick up more signs. 

Let’s begin by doing some quick checks:

  • Is your dog shaking its head when you speak to it?
  • Does it shake its head more vigorously when it barks?
  • Is it only shaking its head after a swim or a bath? 

In a situation where it constantly looks at you and shakes its head while you speak, there may be something irritating its ears which your dog probably only noticed when it realized it could not hear you well.

Barking and shaking its head excessively could also be a strong sign that something is either trapped within its ear canals or that there is a growing ear infection or polyps situation. 

In these cases, it would be wise to bring your dog to the vet to have its ears checked out.

Starting ear treatments early can help your dog heal faster and reduce its risk of hearing loss due to untreated infections.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does My Dog Have an Ear Infection if It Keeps Shaking Its Head? 

Your dog could be shaking its head excessively if there is water or a foreign object trapped in its ear. Ear infections and growing polyps could also be another reason why your dog keeps shaking its head.

Should I Bring My Dog to the Vet if It Shakes Its Ear Often? 

You should monitor your dog for any signs of ear infections if it is shaking its head more than normal. You could perform self-checks first to see if it is just water or if there are any foreign objects trapped in its ears. If there are signs of ear infections or growth (polyps), it will be wise for you to bring your dog to the vet for a thorough treatment.

How to Know if My Dog Has an Ear Infection?

A key sign to look out for is excessive head-shaking action. If your dog does this more than usual, you may want to bring it to the vet. Most times, your dog may already have an active ear infection that needs treatments.

Should I Ignore My Dog When He Barks?

Don’t constantly ignore your dog when he barks since you never know what can be upsetting your dog. There are typically two main causes of barking: either your dog needs your support and attention, or your dog feels threatened by a certain issue, so take some time to figure out which is which.

In Conclusion: Dog Shake His Head When He Barks

So there you have it: an explanation of why your dog’s head might be shaking when he barks.

It might not a serious concern, but a quick check of the ears and nose can never hurt.

If nothing else, it will give you something to talk about with friends at the dog park.

Being a dog owner can be tough and it’s important to keep yourself up to date about dog care.

Continue reading some other useful tips and learn things like why your puppy is a light sleeper, why your dog is not eating much but sleeping a lot, or what to do if you stepped on your dog’s paw.

We are constantly publishing new articles to help dog owners out, so be sure to check back every so often!

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Daily Dog Drama!

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