Shake It Off – Good for the Dog; Good for You

All the dogs are playing and having fun. Then one dog does something rude or stupid. I’m not sure what.

All three dogs separate from each other and shake. A few moments later, they’re back to chasing each other around the yard.

Wouldn’t it be great if humans could learn to just shake it off when they get upset?

Honey the golden retriever plays bitey face with Scooter the foster puppy.

Scooter, if you get out of hand, I’m just going to shake you right off this couch.

When the Body Leads, the Mind Follows

It has taken human scientists years to learn what dogs know instinctively. If you need to settle your emotions, settle your body.

We often describe emotional impact by talking about how it feels in our bodies:

  • “It was like being punched in the gut.”
  • “My heart is heavy.”
  • “I’m so anxious my heart is going to pound out of my chest.”

It makes sense that if our emotions are causing our bodies to react, that doing something with our bodies could change our emotions.

Smiling can make you happier. A Welsh scientific study found that women who could not frown because of botox injections reported feeling better than women who could frown. And faking a smile can actually improve your mood.

When dogs shake it off, they’re probably causing their emotions to loosen as well.

Honey the golden retriever poses in front of her bike cart.

Whenever I get out of the bike cart, I have a good long shake. It relaxes me after driving in traffic.


When Dogs Are Unhappy

At home, you have many ways of telling if your dog is happy or unhappy.

But when dogs are interacting with other dogs—particularly strangers—unhappiness is usually shown in a tight body posture.

Playful dogs are loose and floppy.

Tense dogs are stiff. Their tails rise up straight or are tucked under their bodies. They lurch when they walk.

So shaking it off makes sense. If a dog decides he’s not facing a real threat, he’ll shake off the tension and move on. And it’s amazing how quickly it helps.

Honey the golden retriever shakes water out of her fur at the beach.

And sometimes I shake just because it feels good.


When People are Unhappy

Many of us, especially word geeks like writers, try to argue ourselves out of feeling bad.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt devastated by someone’s off-hand remark and argued with myself for days. “You’re ridiculous to feel so bad about this. It’s not a big deal. Stop feeling bad and move on.”

I can tell you it doesn’t help.

Maybe it’s time to learn from Honey and her doggy friends. If someone steps on my feelings, stop trying to argue myself out of feeling bad. Maybe it’s time to stop relying on my words to protect me and start relying on my body. And just shake it off.

After all, if it’s good for the dog, it just might be good for me.

Your Turn: When you’re feeling bad emotionally, do you use your body to feel better? Does your dog?

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  1. Us dogs usually shake it off but once a year or so, Katie and I have a really bad fight, this happened last week. We will go for hours without looking at each other, going out of our way to avoid each other. It is really at most once a year but it is serious. Mom talks to herself when she is angry, but she doesn’t shake herself at all :)

  2. For the first time ever, I just had the thought, “Gee, maybe I should consider Botox.”

    Not really though. I do a lot of stretching lately since my back is in constant pain, and I find that it brightens my mental outlook while it loosens my body. And I agree, shaking it out feels good too.

  3. Dang watching that dog shake in slowmo is amazing…You’re right about how talking yourself out of an emotion never really works…I find that if I get busy doing something – anything that requires movement -I can pretty much “shake it off” But it’s not natural and I have to remind myself to get busy and stop stewing

  4. That would be funny if people actually shook like that, it would bring laughter though and therefore work.

  5. When I was a kid, if something was bothering me, my Mom would tell me to “go shake it off. You’ll feel better quickly.” And it worked every time! But when Mom passed away and I didn’t have her to remind me, I forgot about it until just now when I read your post. I have to print it out and put it somewhere to remind myself again! Thanks for the reminders — both to shake it off, and of my Mom’s sage advice!!

  6. It kind of reminds me of when my son played Little League. When the boys got hit with a pitch, the teammates would always yell “Don’t rub it!” or “Wear it!” which meant when you get hit, stand up and take it. Well, not that I necessarily agree with that because I don’t like to see anyone get hurt, but metaphorically, when life knocks you down, “Don’t rub it!” and just wallow in the hurt, but step up to the plate and do something about it.

  7. The only thing that helps me is to put on a loud recording and do some funky aerobic dance steps until the serotonin to kick in, which it does very quickly. I guess that is a literal human version of shaking it off.

  8. Interesting. I only notice Sage shaking when she’s wet (which is often), but now I’m going to pay closer attention to other shakes.

  9. I wish it was that easy! Just shake it off and be done with it. That would be great!!

  10. I think I could learn a lot from my dog – for a start to get out of my head, I am over analysing everything at the moment. Now knowing where I am going to end up or doing what – really need to start living in the moment!

    Fake smiles and shaking it is – well I’ve tried everything else!!

  11. I didn’t take much notice of any shaking until I started fostering. It’s interesting to watch who shakes and when and why. When playing starts getting a bit intense I’m always pleased to see someone break off and have a good shake :)

  12. The shaking… humans probably don’t have the kind of muscles that do that sort of shaking…