Why do Chihuahuas and other small dogs shiver ?

Why do Chihuahuas and other small dogs shiver ?

Health & Safety

The tiny, cute Chihuahua dog has a reputation for being a bit of a shiverer, and they will often shake without apparent explanation in a wide variety of circumstances. Understandably, these little dogs with light, fine coats are more likely to feel the cold than most other dog breeds, and sometimes, like any dog, they will simply shake or shiver if they are feeling a bit chilly.

However, as anyone who has spent a reasonable amount of time around Chihuahuas will tell you, sometimes the Chihuahua will shake when it appears to be highly unlikely that they are actually cold, and the reason for this is not always clear.

Read on to learn more about why the Chihuahua and some other very small toy dog breeds are prone to shivering.

The weather and environment

The Chihuahua dog hails from Mexico, a warm country that does not suffer from extremely cold weather. Because the Chihuahua has adapted and evolved over time to deal with living in a warm climate, the ambient temperature in the UK is rather lower than they are used to, particularly during the winter months. Whether your Chihuahua is longhaired or short haired, their coats are light and fine, and not particularly well suited to keeping these little dogs warm when it is cold out. This is why you will often see Chihuahuas being walked in the winter wearing warm or waterproof coats, and even sometimes booties!

Added to the fact that they have thin, light coats, the Chihuahua is also a finely boned lightweight dog, which does not tend to carry much fat as padding. Fat forms an insulating layer and helps to maintain body temperature and conserve heat, and the fact that these dogs are so petite and delicate means that they have a tendency to be chilly, as they do not have as much natural insulation as most other breeds!


As a very small dog breed, the Chihuahua does not store much energy from food, as they only have small stomachs and a limited capacity for their meals! The Chihuahua is definitely one dog that benefits from being fed little and often, and their meals should be divided into at least three portions throughout the day, rather than one or two. Not only does this best suit the needs of their digestive systems, but keeping their digestive system active will help to keep them warm.

The metabolic rate of the Chihuahua is actually rather higher than for most other dog breeds, which means that they digest their food quickly and burn off the energy that comes with it faster too. A Chihuahua will not be able to maintain their core temperature very well with food if they go for several hours at a time without having a meal!


While the Chihuahua does tend to be a plucky, outgoing little dog when correctly handled and socialised, they are also very small, and may be easily intimidated by larger dogs, people and other sources of stress. Bear in mind how much larger you are than a Chihuahua, and it is understandable that the Chihuahua might become nervous in certain situations if a person that they don’t know is bearing down on them and perhaps talking noisily! Just as with people, stress, nerves and fear can cause the Chihuahua to shake, and as almost everything around the Chihuahua is larger than they are, they have more sources of potential nervousness than other larger dogs.


Anyone who has ever witnessed a Chihuahua having a silly five minutes, racing around or attacking their toys, will know that these little dogs can be little terrors, and can be prone to being very excitable! After an energetic game or anything that gets your Chihuahua’s heart rate up, they will need time to calm down again afterwards. Adrenalin leaving the body and the process of calming down after excitement can lead to shaking, and this is often more pronounced in the Chihuahua than in most other breeds of dog.

Keeping your Chihuahua happy

While the vast majority of Chihuahuas will get the shakes or trembles from time to time, some of these little dogs are much more prone to the shivers than others. While this is something that you will get used to in time, it is important to look into the potential reasons for your dog getting the shivers, and doing what you can to keep them happy, comfortable and on an even keel.

  • Ensure that your Chihuahua is kept warm enough during the winter, both inside of the house and when out walking. You will almost certainly need to invest in a coat and possibly some boots for your little dog when the weather is cold!
  • Ensure that your Chihuahua is properly socialised with both other dogs and people, so that they do not have an automatic tendency to nervousness in new situations.
  • Feed your dog appropriately for their age and size, splitting their daily food ration into several portions divided up over the course of the day to keep their metabolism ticking over and help to keep them warm enough.
  • Never shout at or physically intimidate your Chihuahua; this is true for all dogs, but even more so in the case of these littlest of canines.


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