A dog tugging on a rope while baring its teeth.

Why Do Dogs Chatter Their Teeth?

Our four-legged, best friends are capable of some of the funniest, most weird behavior ever. For instance, do you know why your dog chatters his teeth? We have a little insight into this behavior. Read on so you will too.

Related: Why Do Dogs Like to Be Pet?

Why Does Your Dog Chatter His Teeth?

Teeth chattering can be a strange or odd behavior. It can be a little jarring when you first hear your dog’s teeth clicking or clacking together. Here are a few of the reasons they may do this - by category.  

Physical Reasons

  • Pain. If your dog is older, chattering teeth may signify that he is suffering pain in his body. There may be a more severe health issue if he also growls or the teeth chattering has come about suddenly.  
  • Low Temperature. Just like us, involuntary shivering and teeth chattering are signs your dog is feeling cold. Fur isn’t always sufficient to keep him warm, and smaller dogs are especially susceptible to cold temperatures. In colder weather, consider dog coats or sweaters to keep your dog warm.
  • Sniffing. Your dog can make odd mouth movements and facial expressions when smelling new or strange scents - pleasant or unpleasant. 

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Emotional Reasons

  • Nervousness. Your dog will bare his teeth or chatter them when he feels threatened, defensive, or stress. This could include social anxiety.
  • Fear/Intimidation. Dogs can use teeth chattering to communicate aggression when they feel intimidated. It may be used as a distraction to the more threatening animal or to keep your dog calm in the face of danger. They may show feelings of fear and intimidation by spinning in circles or licking their face.  
  • Excitement. Your dog’s teeth may chatter when they’re excited about something happening or about to happen, like food, treats, a walk, or their owner arriving home from work. 


  • Tooth Decay. The pain and discomfort of a tooth abscess or other decay can cause teeth to chatter in response. It’s essential to care for the health of your dog’s teeth. In the first instance, they can’t tell you when they’re in pain, giving the decay time to cause a great deal of discomfort before it is discovered. 
  • Periodontal Disease. Diseased gums can cause your dog pain leading to this chattering behavior. If the teeth chattering is accompanied by excessive drooling, difficulty eating, tooth loss, or bad breath, your dog may have gum disease. 
  • Neurological Issues. If you notice unusual pupil dilation, your dog holding a strange gait, or if the chattering behavior is continual or has no discernable cause, seek medical attention for him. You may also notice facial paralysis, palsy, a droopy eyelid, or other unnatural eye movements.   
  • Seizures. Disorders like epilepsy can cause random chattering or clicking in the absence of any other more obvious cause. 

Related: Dog Barking at Nothing

What to Do if Teeth Chattering Won’t Go Away

If the teeth chattering is regularly occurring, take your dog to the vet. They can figure out what’s at the root of the problem - whether it can be quickly dealt with or a more severe medical issue. Your dog will get a thorough exam - teeth, gums, and bones. Be prepared to answer questions about your dog. Take note of any other behaviors they’re exhibiting that may or may not seem connected to the teeth chattering. 

Close-up of a dog’s mouth showing its teeth.

Quick Check to Know if Teeth Chattering is a Problem

This is a summary of the above information to see if your dog’s teeth chattering is a problem or just an adorable habit:

  1. Is there a lot of drool accompanying the teeth chattering? This could indicate a dental issue, or it could just mean they’re happy about something.
  2. Are your dog’s teeth chattering when they sniff or smell things? This is expected behavior. There’s no reason for concern.
  3. Do their teeth chatter after licking things? This is also normal. 
  4. Does the chattering happen only in certain situations? Think about the times that your dog does this. Are they happy or excited when their teeth chatter? Are you just getting home, or are they playing with their favorite toy? On the other hand, do their teeth chatter when they’re unhappy?
  5. Does the chattering behavior only happen when they’re with other dogs? This could mean your dog is suffering from social anxiety. Consider meet-ups with smaller groups, and watch out for other dogs intimidating yours. 
  6. Does your dog have difficulty chewing, biting, or have they started eating very slowly? This could indicate dental problems that must be attended to immediately.
  7. Does your dog seem ‘head shy’? If they don’t let you touch their head or mouth, this may also point to dental issues.
  8. Do their teeth chatter only while they sleep? Clicking their teeth during sleep is called bruxism, and it’s similar to when we grind our teeth in our sleep. It usually means there’s stress and anxiety during the day.  
  9. How are their pupils dilating? Abnormal dilations could mean there is a seizure disorder or neurological issues. 
  10.  Is your dog a naturally nervous breed? Some dogs are predisposed to behaviors like teeth chattering. In which case, their actions are typical. 

Related: What Are the Longest Living Dog Breeds

Why Dogs Chatter Their Teeth in a Nutshell

This is a cute habit that may be funny and adorable to watch your dog do. Unfortunately, teeth chattering may also be quite serious, signaling neurological issues or dental problems. Your dog may be experiencing stress, anxiety, or even intense joy. Observe their behavior and the conditions surrounding it to know your dog better and protect them where you can. If you suspect illness or pain, take your dog to the vet.

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