Dog Teeth Chattering - why they do it and what it means

Updated 28 February 2024
Read time: 9 mins
article author
Written by Corinne Homer

So this is new - your dog was sniffing, grinning or panting as usual, but now their teeth are chattering?! If you’ve noticed your dog’s teeth chatter sometimes and you’re not entirely sure why, you’ll be glad to know this is quite common - not just in dogs, but cats and lots of other mammals, too. There are various reasons behind it, so it’s a good idea to investigate each time your pooch’s jaw starts to judder. 


Read on for the full lowdown on why your dogs’ teeth are chattering, and the most common reasons for sudden teeth chattering in dogs.


Why do dogs chatter their teeth?

There are a few common reasons why dogs’ teeth chatter:


  • They could be very cold, or confusingly, very hot
  • They may be in pain for some reason
  • They may have sniffed something that’s triggered certain canine bodily sensors


Let’s go into some of the reasons your dog’s teeth might chatter in more detail… 


They’ve been triggered by pheromones 

Not a lot of pooch parents know this, but dogs have a sensory system located in the roof of their mouth, just behind their teeth called the ‘vomeronasal system’, or ‘Jacobson’s Organ’. This picks up on pheromones (a chemical substance produced and released into the environment by an animal) as well as specific smells and tastes, which for some reason, can activate a teeth chattering response. So when your pooch is sniffing away at something they can’t get enough of, and the teeth start chattering, this is what’s happening. 


They’re excited or nervous

Excitement and nervousness are two seemingly opposite emotions, however they’re actually extremely similar when it comes to the physical sensations in the body. In either case, adrenaline floods the body and may cause your dog’s teeth to chatter, almost as a nervous release of some kind. 


Make a note of when this happens most often - is it when your dog is scared (during a vet visit, or when there are strangers outside, for example) or during happy times, such as when they’re playing with other dogs or jumping up to a loved and familiar visitor? Their accompanying body language should give it away.


Grey Lurcher looking nervous, against a bright purple background


They are too cold, or too hot 

Similar to humans and other animals, when a dog is cold, they may shiver or chatter their teeth as a way to generate extra body heat. If it’s cold and you note this behaviour, be sure to warm up your dog with a blanket, coat or take them into a warmer environment. 


Confusingly, they may chatter their teeth if they’re hot, too. This is because dogs don’t sweat like humans, so while panting, they may have involuntary movements in their jaw such as teeth chattering. Be sure to get your dog into a cooler spot if you notice this. 


Brown Poodle Cross dog, wearing a scarf, against a yellow background


They’re in pain 

Teeth chattering is a common indicator that your dog could be in pain. This is linked to a sense of stress, as your pooch is likely experiencing physiological movements in response to feeling discomfort. If the chattering comes on suddenly and for no obvious reason, you should check your dog for other signs of pain - such as lethargy, low mood, whimpering or an obvious injury and take them to a vet if you notice anything concerning.


They have toothache or periodontal disease

A case of toothache or periodontal disease (in which a dog’s teeth and gums tend to get sore, infected or swollen), could result in your dog’s mouth juddering. This is again a response to feeling pain and discomfort, and is perhaps a sign that they can’t close their mouth properly. Periodontal disease, sore gums or toothache is more likely the case if your pooch’s teeth chattering is accompanied by bad breath.


If your dog’s dental hygiene leaves a lot to be desired, try to remedy this with more regular teeth brushing or some doggy dental sticks or dental dog treats.


They may have a neurological condition

In rarer cases, your dog’s teeth chattering may be neurological. If the episode is accompanied by seizures, full body tremors or your pooch seems distant or ‘out of it’ in any way, this could be a sign of something more serious. Definitely take them to a vet as soon as you can. 

Meanings of teeth chatter in dogs

So you know what triggers teeth chattering, but what about when your dogs’ teeth suddenly chatter in certain scenarios? You might be wondering, “Why does my female dog chatter their teeth when near a male?” or “Why is my dog chattering their teeth when they’re not cold?” 


Below we’ve covered some common triggers for that all-familiar clacking of teeth. The most important thing is to identify the scenarios in which your pooch gets a teeth chattering episode - so that you’ll know whether it’s nothing to worry about, or you should take them to see a vet. 


Why does my dog chatter their teeth when excited?

Sometimes a dog’s teeth chatter when their body is responding to the adrenaline of excitement. If your pooch slips into a teeth chattering episode during exciting circumstances - such as when a loved person is visiting, or perhaps before walkies, dinner, or the introduction of a new toy - then you’ll know that teeth chattering is linked to positive emotions, and therefore is not necessarily a cause for concern.


Why do dogs chatter their teeth after licking?

Your pooch might chatter their teeth after licking something or themselves. As mentioned, teeth chattering is linked to the ‘vomeronasal system’, also called the ‘Jacobson’s Organ’ which is located behind their snout/front teeth. As licking means your pooch is likely receiving a lot of pheromones, that system is being activated and causing their teeth to chatter. It should subside once their activated body has returned to normal.


Why are my ​​male dog’s teeth chattering after smelling a female?

A male dog’s teeth might chatter after smelling a female dog. Sniffing a female may cause your male dog to receive an influx of pheromones that flips their nervous system somewhat into overdrive, thus the chattering teeth.


If your male pooch has just sniffed a female, you can assume that’s why their teeth are click-clacking away - it’s an indication that their body is reacting to what (or who) they’ve smelt. If it continues later, though, or happens without a female around, spend some time considering what else may have triggered it. 


Why does my female dog chatter their teeth?

It’s not only male dogs that chatter their teeth after sniffing a female - females, too, will react physically to pheromones and smells. But it could be that your female dog is chattering her teeth for any number of reasons. As far as we know, there shouldn’t really be any sex-based differences, as all pooches (and most mammals, for that matter - including us!) have the ‘Jacobson’s Organ’ situated in the roof of their mouth. In simple terms, if your dog’s teeth are chattering, you should investigate every reason why, whether they’re a boy dog or a girl dog. 


Why is my older dog chattering their teeth?

Older dogs will chatter their teeth for the same reasons younger dogs do, but there may be some age-related factors that are making certain triggers more likely. Your pooch may be in pain, be suffering from periodontal disease or toothache, or may even have arthritis or general soreness. If this persists and teeth chattering seems to be a sign of pain in general, you might want to talk it over with your vet. 


 Teeth chatter due to dental issues 

Your dog’s teeth chattering may be due to dental issues - in fact, it’s very likely. Dental problems and periodontal disease is extremely common in dogs, which can start with a simple toothache or sore gums that causes them to feel discomfort and soreness. If your pooch’s teeth chattering is accompanied by other signs of toothache (change in mood, drooling, reddened gums, pawing at face), it’s highly likely that’s the cause. 


Dog teeth chattering & focal motor seizures/neurological issues

In rare cases, your dog’s chattering teeth could be a sign of a neurological issue. Your pooch may even be suffering from a focal motor seizure. During focal motor seizure in dogs, repetitive movement is localised, meaning they shudder or shake in only one part of the body (in this case, the jaw or face). Get in touch with your vet so your dog can be tested for certain neurological conditions. They may receive medication so that the teeth chattering doesn’t cause them any distress. 

Should I always take my dog to a vet if their teeth chatter? 

In many cases, your dog’s teeth chattering is probably not a cause for concern - you should decipher your pooch’s body language and the situation you’re in (is it very cold right now, are there visitors in the house? etc.), and note when there’s a pattern of it happening. If your dog’s jaw starts juddering every time they’re in an exciting situation, for instance, it’s clearly a behavioural quirk and not something to worry about. 


If your dog’s teeth chattering comes on randomly, or is accompanied by more concerning behaviour such as drooling, pawing of face, general low mood or some form of paralysis or fit, then it makes sense that you should take them to get checked over by a vet. 

Teeth chattering in dogs is often a symptom of dodgy dental health - meaning your poor pooch likely has a toothache. If you think your dog could do with extra oral care, Pooch & Mutt dental sticks for dogs contain tasty, munchable ingredients like peanut butter and spirulina. For more bite-size oral care, there’s our Mini Bone dental dog treats or our moist, Dental Meaty Treats.

Comments (3)

My female rescue dog chatters her teeth if she sniffs at a minor wound I might have like a scratch or cut! I have wondered if it’s tapping into some primeval instinct :)

Sarah - Sep 13 2023

It’s happened about 6 times now, she’s 2 years old and just started chattering her teeth like someone being cold and shakes like she’s freezing.

Linda - Feb 08 2024

My dog is also two and has randomly started licking but he wasn’t actually licking anyone or anything , just sat there lick lick lick I didn’t think he was going to stop eventually when he did stop he went straight into this teeth xh

Anita - Apr 16 2024

Leave a comment

Never miss a treat!

Subscribe to our newsletter and get blog articles amongst other treats delivered to your inbox


close button