Why Do Dogs Chatter Their Teeth? (Dog Teeth Grinding Explained)

Why Do Dogs Chatter Their Teeth? Photo of a dog chattering his teeth.

Ever wondered what that weird rattling is in your dog, only to find out its chattering? What’s that all about, and should you worry about it? That, and more, below.

Dogs can chatter their teeth when they are feeling intense emotions, which is often the case.

Common trigger emotions include excitement and fear. In some cases, it can be a sign of severe aggression, too.

Teeth chattering can also mean that your dog is cold, though, such as when they are wet. It can also be a symptom of pain. In severe cases, teeth chattering can be a sign of a seizure or tooth problems.

Is it possible for a dog’s teeth to be chattering?

Yes, definitely. All animals are physically capable of it. It’s pretty standard for dogs to chatter their teeth.

In some breeds, this chattering is very obvious, but it is hard to detect in others.

Dogs can have chattering teeth, just like cats, humans, and many other different kinds of animals!

Even if you’ve only spotted it for the first time, it’s probably happened before, and you just didn’t know it.

Reasons for teeth chattering in dogs

If you’re feeling apprehensive about this seemingly new habit, let’s take a look at it and see just what’s going on.

The possible scenarios include:

  • Intense emotion
  • Scent detection
  • Severe aggression
  • Cold
  • Pain
  • Dental issues
  • Seizure symptoms

The likelihood of any of these symptoms depends on your dog’s age, health, and many situational factors. Let’s dive deeper.

Intense emotion

Any emotion that your dog is feeling can cause teeth chattering. This is amongst the most common reasons for most dogs. The emotion could be fear or anxiety, excitement, happiness, sadness, etc.

If you look closely enough, you may also notice other symptoms, including slight facial tremors and other indicators of that emotion. The chattering just implies that they’re feeling a lot of it.

Scent detection

Dogs have incredibly powerful noses. They are thousands and thousands of times more potent than human noses. Dogs often chatter their teeth when they catch the scent of something that gets their attention.

It’s a symptom that they are intensely focusing on that scent, and they are chattering their teeth as a way to get more of that scent physically in them.

Severe aggression

Remember how we talked about emotion? Well, aggression is another form of that.

In a situation where your dog feels threatened or needs to be aggressive, teeth chattering is possible. Often paired with raised fur and lips, the teeth chattering is a sign of severe aggression.

If teeth chattering is linked to aggression for your dog, in particular, you’ll want to talk to your vet or a specialist about how to help him through it.


Yup, really! When dogs are cold, they will chatter their teeth just like humans. If a dog is very cold, teeth chattering can occur to the point where it’s audible to humans.

An excellent example of when you’d most see this in a dog is when he is wet from playing in the rain and comes inside. Or when it is cold and snowy outside, and he’s been playing in the snow! 


Sometimes chattering will happen when your dog is in pain. If he is in a lot of pain, he’ll get to the point where he’ll chatter.

This is going to be accompanied, in most cases, by other symptoms like loss of appetite, irritability, etc. 

Dental issues

Dental issues like periodontitis are widespread in dogs. If your dog has a hard time chewing his food or seems to be licking a lot, it could signify that he is dealing with some dental issues that will require a trip to the vet.

If those issues are particularly troublesome, he’ll also chatter his teeth, though he’ll be tentative about it.

Seizure symptoms

This is rare in dogs, but it can happen. A seizure in a dog can sometimes start with minor seizure symptoms, including twitching in the face, teeth chattering, and mild shaking that doesn’t seem to be connected with any particular emotion or reaction. This should warrant a visit to the vet!

Should I worry if my dog’s teeth are chattering?

It’s perfectly normal to feel apprehensive if you notice your dog’s teeth chattering. In a lot of cases, it is most likely scent-related or part of an emotional response.

Take note of whether or not it happens at certain times of the day or when he’s reacting to one thing or another. This will help him establish a pattern. 

If you notice that the chattering has other symptoms, though, it might be worth getting in touch with your vet. For example, excessive drolling, an indicator of pain, etc.

When in doubt, a trip to the vet is a great idea just to rule anything else out. No need to be worried when a trip to the vet can help quiet your concerns, right?

Common FAQ about dog teeth chattering

A lot of people have questions on why dogs chatter their teeth. To help give you a comprehensive guide on commonly asked questions, here are some of the main points that people wonder about:

Why do dogs chatter their teeth after licking?

If you notice that your dog is chattering their teeth directly after licking something, then it’s because they are sensing and smelling something.

With such a strong sense of smell, dogs rely on their mouth as much as their powerful sniffer to get a true sense of smell. Chattering teeth is a big part of that, even if it’s confusing to us humans.

Why does my dog chatter his teeth when he smells?

Their mouth, as mentioned, is a secondary organ that helps them to “smell”. This means that chattering their teeth allows them to draw in and direct the smell to those additional sensors in their mouth. You may notice the chattering itself is very subtle.

Why does my dog chomp his teeth at me?

If you notice your dog chattering or even chomping their teeth at you in particular, it could mean a few things.

The first one is that your dog is very excited and shows you their excitement through chomping or chattering. He could also be in pain and might be trying to communicate that pain to you. 

Another sign is aggression, however. If it is directed at you when you go near his favorite toy or food, this is something to take as aggression. It needs to be treated by a professional to make sure that everyone stays safe!

Why do old dogs chatter their teeth?

Some dogs chatter their teeth as they get older due to painful teeth and a need for attention.

However, more commonly than not, it’s simply seen as “a sign of aging,” much like elderly humans tend to have slight tremors, too.

My dog is chattering his teeth and drooling. What does it mean?

If your dog is chattering and drolling, it could be that he is excited or interested in something (dogs tend to drool out of excitement). It could also mean that the dog has a dental issue, and the drooling is from pain. 

Why is my dog chattering his teeth and shaking?

Most likely, he is very excited or very nervous. The shaking is like a powered-up version of the teeth chattering.

This is especially likely if they are looking at a particular person or something else that excites them or makes them nervous.

Why is my dog chattering their teeth after yawning?

There is some debate over this. Most agree that it is another indicator of smell. However, others think that it could be a sign of discomfort or fatigue. It depends mostly on when the dog is yawning.

Why is my dog chattering their teeth while sleeping?

This is similar to how humans clench their teeth while asleep. Called Bruxism, it’s the fancy term for when you unconscious clench your jaw. Dogs will chatter their teeth instead. Some think that it means their dog is in the midst of a great dream, too.

When should I visit a veterinarian about chattering?

This is a great question. If it appears as though it’s come out of nowhere, you can look at booking your dog into a vet just to be sure that everything is okay.

If you notice other symptoms, like the ones we talked about above, a vet visit is a good idea to rule out anything more serious.

All in all

Chattering teeth in dogs is most common when they feel intense emotions or smell something and need a bit more “power.”

Teeth chattering can also indicate that they are cold or dealing with aggression. In severe cases, it implies teeth or other health problems that will require a visit to the vet.

Teeth chattering in dogs seems strange but is often harmless. You’ll want to talk to your vet to be sure, though, if you notice other symptoms.

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Dog Advisory Council

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