Why Do Dogs Chatter Their Teeth?

Written by: Milica Brzakovic
Why do dogs chatter their teeth? Do they do that for the same reason as people? This article reveals some interesting facts about teeth chattering which will probably open you eyes!

We’re sure that you’ve noticed that your dog is chattering its teeth at least a couple of times, maybe even in different circumstances.

But have you ever wondered about what it means?

Is your dog trying to tell you something by this behavior?

It’s not unusual for dogs’ teeth to chatter, on the contrary. When our teeth chatter it usually means that we’re feeling cold and as a result our teeth start chattering. But is it the same for dogs? Are chattering teeth indicating that your dog is cold?

This article will provide you with some interesting information on this topic. But before we start, let’s distinguish chattering and snapping!

What Does Chattering Sound Like?

It’s rather easy to confuse teeth chattering and snapping. The latter happens when dogs feel threatened, irritated or possessive. The dog will open and close its mouth suddenly, which will cause a click when the teeth touch. This is the dog’s way of saying that he has teeth and will use them if needed.

As opposed to this “one-time” sound, teeth chattering is a repeated teeth-to-teeth contact. This sound doesn’t have to indicate that your dog is angry, but it doesn’t have to mean that your dog is cold neither! In fact, teeth chattering in dogs can reveal more than one thing about your dog’s state of mind.

So…what can it mean?

What Can Chattering Teeth Reveal?

As mentioned, dogs chattering their teeth doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re cold. In fact, it can be a sign of cold as well, but it’s far from the only reason! When you notice your dog chattering its teeth, don’t assume automatically that cold is behind it. So, let’s take a look at possible reasons behind this.

Chattering Teeth Indicating Emotions

Your dog could be revealing its emotions by chattering the teeth – it could either be an indicator of good or bad stress. For instance, you dog may be chattering its teeth when he knows you’re taking him out for a walk or when you’re preparing his meal. In these, or similar situations, it means that the dog is excited and anticipating something good.

In other cases, they could be doing it out of stress or anxiety. An example of this is if your dog sees another dog or a stranger that makes him nervous. Another situation could be when you’re taking your dog to the vet – a situation in which most dogs don’t feel too comfortable.

So, even though chattering teeth can indicate both good and bad excitement you will be able to tell what kind of emotion it is based on the situation and the circumstances. For instance, check out this video below on a dog chattering its teeth when begging for food!

Chattering Teeth Due To Odors

Have you ever seen your dog chattering its teeth when it’s near another dog? Your dog may actually be doing this because it’s evaluating an odor! This is particularly the case with intact male dogs. So, why do they do that?

In order to understand this behavior we have to explain how the dog’s smelling organ functions. Namely, dogs have a special organ, called the vomeronasal organ or Jacob’s organ. It’s thanks to this organ that dogs are able to “taste” the smell.

This is a structure located between your dog’s vomer and nasal bones, as the name says, and at the top of its roof of the mouth is located a duct, called the “incisive papilla”. The main function of this organ is to pick up chemical messages, or pheromones in other words. Pheromones are released and left behind by dogs for mainly reproductive purposes.

In order for a dog to get a chemical message, it’s necessary for it to travel to to the dog’s Jacob’s organ. When it gets there, it is relayed to parts of the brain – crucial for the mating process and responsible for other emotions connected to this process.

So, to sum it up – when dogs are chattering their teeth, and maybe even foaming at the mouth, near another dog they are actually gathering the information necessary for the mating process.

“Dogs read about the world through their noses, and they write their messages, at least to other dogs, in their urine.”
Stanley Coren

This quote explains why dogs tend to smell other dogs’ urine. As mentioned, chattering teeth due to smelling is most common in intact male dogs. They are sniffing the urine of a female dog in order to determine if she is in season or not. The chattering can also occur due to direct sniffing of the female’s rear area.

Interestingly, if the male dog discovers that the female dog is in fact in heat, it may start chattering its teeth as a reaction to the exciting realization!

Chattering Teeth Caused By Dental Pain

Unfortunately, teeth chattering can be a sign of something being wrong with your dog’s mouth. It could be different things, such as problems with the gums, teeth or jaw. However, it’s usually a painful oral problem that’s behind the teeth chattering. Chattering teeth is your dog’s way of trying to alleviate the pain and telling you something hurts.

In order to figure out if your dog is having oral problems, it’s not enough only to inspect your dog’s mouth. In some cases everything looks fine in the mouth, but then X-rays reveal problems under the gum, not visible to the eye.

Dogs are prone to periodontal disease and fracture in their carnassial teeth which can cause swelling under the eyes. So, if you notice that your dog is chattering without any apparent reason, such as excitement or an odor, you should check if everything is OK with your dog’s oral hygiene.

Chattering Teeth Indicating Neurological Disorder

In certain cases, some more serious diseases and conditions could be behind dogs’ teeth chattering. Some of these conditions are hereditary, making some breeds more prone to them than others, while other problems can affect all dogs equally.

For instance, Cocker Spaniels, Malteses and Bichon Frises have the genetic predispositions to suffer a multisystem degeneration. Among other symptoms, such as muscle tremors and balance problems, chattering teeth can be a sign of this disease. Unfortunately, no treatment exists as of yet.

The so-called shaker syndrome is another hereditary disease to have in mind. It causes tremors, as the name reveals, and teeth chattering as a consequence of these tremors. This problem is most common among white-furred breeds, but it’s not completely understood why it occurs. Steroids or sedatives are prescribed to help.

Another problem that could be indicated by chattering teeth is epilepsy. This is far more common among dogs than what it is among people. The seizures don’t have to affect the whole body, but only a part of the dog’s body. As a result, these “partial seizures” could make your dog’s teeth chatter.

When you want to determine if a seizure is behind it you have to test your dog’s responsiveness. Try touching your dog or talking to him or her while its teeth are chattering. If your dog stops and responds to your attempt of getting its attention, it’s not a seizure that’s behind the chattering teeth.

On the other hand, if your dog ignores you it might very well be a sign that a seizure is going on. In this case, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible just to be on the safe side it’s not a life-threatening issue.

Chattering Teeth Due To Cold

dog teeth chattering

Besides all the other reasons mentioned above, chattering teeth could actually indicate something as simple as cold! Just like us, dogs tend to chatter their teeth when they’re very cold. If a dog’s body temperature becomes lower than what it should be the internal thermostat “goes into alert”.

The normal temperature is somewhere around 101 degrees (38 degrees Celsius). If the body temperature drops too much, the body does whatever it can to bring the temperature back to normal. Teeth chattering is one of the fastest ways to do this, by shivering of the muscles. The chattering is usually followed by shivering of the body, also a way toward establishing a normal body temperature.

Some breeds are more prone than others to feeling cold. This is why you will have to invest in a dog sweater or a dog coat during winter. Some breeds that get cold more than others are Chihuahuas, miniature pinschers, greyhounds and whippets.

How Do I Determine Why Teeth Chattering Occurs?

It seems that dogs are more complicated than us at this particular point! As you now know, there could be many different reasons behind it so warming your dog won’t stop the teeth chattering in many cases. And besides, it shouldn’t be stopped in some situations, such as smelling. This is simply their way of getting information!

When you notice that your dog’s teeth are chattering and you want to know why, you have to consider the entire situation. For example, if you know that your dog may be anticipating something – good or bad – this could be the reason why. On the other hand, if you can’t see any apparent reason behind it, such as cold or anticipation, you should check for medical problems mentioned above.

The bottom line is – consider all factors and the entire situation and you will probably be able to understand why your dog is chattering its teeth!


Anticipation, odors, oral problems, seizures and cold – all reasons that could be behind the teeth chattering. As you can see, dogs tend to do this for more reasons than you and I!

In most cases it’s completely harmless, and is only their way of dealing with things. In other cases, however, it could be indicate something more serious so you should be aware of the possibilities and know how to react if you were to suspect that something was going on with your dog. Dogs can’t simply tell us what is going on, so it’s our responsibility as dog owners to try to figure out what it’s trying to tell us.

To sum it up – dogs don’t chatter their teeth only when they’re cold so it’s a good idea to be informed and to know what could be behind it. That way you will be able to understand and help your pet the best you can!