Doberman Head Tremors and Head Bobbing Syndrome

Head Tremors is a unique feature that affects the Dobermans more frequently than other breeds. Under this condition, they twitch or move their head unknowingly and uncontrollably. This condition is also known as head bobbing syndrome, episodic head tremor syndrome, and idiopathic head tremors. Listening to the name of this condition, many Dobie owners wonder whether this condition is dangerous or not, what are the symptoms of this condition, and how to prevent this? If you are also wondering about the same, keep reading to know more about this. 

What are Idiopathic Head Tremors?

When a dog suffers from a head tremor, they involuntarily move its head from side to side or up and down. And this movement is considered as a head bob like a bobblehead doll. The bobbing head syndrome is also known as Idiopathic Head Tremors. This condition is known as idiopathic because the cause behind its occurrence is still unknown. There can be many reasons for head shaking, including seizures, head injuries, or nervous system disorder, but when any of these conditions are not present, it is considered Idiopathic. 

This condition is also called Episodic Head Tremor Syndrome because it only comes for a short period. Some dogs also experience head bobbing along with teeth chattering. But if you notice that your Dobie is only chattering his teeth without any head shaking, then it might be for other reasons.

This condition is often seen among small to middle-aged dogs; however, some breeds are more prone to experience this condition, such as Doberman Pinschers, Pitbull, Bulldogs, Chow Chows, Samoyeds, Spaniels, Boxers, Labrador Retrievers, and Dalmatians.

Symptoms of Idiopathic Head Tremors in Dogs

A few symptoms of Head Tremors are:

  • Head Bobbing back and forth
  • Shaking head up and down
  • Shaking the head from right to left

How Common are Head Tremors in Doberman?

Suffering from head tremors or head shaking is very common among Dobermans. Although the exact reason behind this is still unknown, it is generally considered harmless. However, it can be scary for a new Dobie’s parents who are experiencing this for the first time. Many owners say head tremors or shaking occurs among young or puppy Dobermans. The duration of these incidences varies from one Doberman to another. On average, head tremors in Doberman can occur two times a day and will last for around 3- 4 minutes.

Why do Head Tremors occur in Dobermans?

Though the most common reason behind the occurrence of head tremors is still unknown, there are a few common factors that can cause head tremors in dogs, such as:

  • It can occur as a result of brain abnormalities, often caused by degeneration, inflammation, or toxicity
  • An emerging genetic disorder can cause tremors
  • Extreme pain
  • Certain Medications- heartworm medications
  • Injury or trauma in the head
  • Kidney disorder
  • Low blood sugar level or calcium level
  • Swelling of the brain
  • Central nervous system disease
  • Toxicity from plants or chemicals

There is not much evidence available to decide the root cause of head bobbing, but according to various studies, it is believed that head tremors are an inherited or genetic disorder. The research results of the National Library of Medicine study show that affected dogs have inherited it from one of their ancestors who also suffered from this disease. This indicates that this is a genetic disorder; however, it requires a lot of further research to identify which gene is specifically causing these tremors among Dobermans.

How do Diagnosis if your Dobie is suffering from Idiopathic Head Tremors?

Though Head tremors are not harmful, a regular and frequent occurrence of the head bobbing syndrome can be a matter of concern. If your Dobie is suffering from Idiopathic Head tremors, it isn’t easy to diagnose it. A professional vet will diagnose this by excluding all the other causes of these underlying diseases. A vet will do a comprehensive physical examination of your pet, including their vital signs, palpation, and auscultation. The vet will also ask for the Doberman’s medical history and immunization records. Do not forget to mention any medication you are giving your Doberman. Next, the vet will do some lab tests, which include blood sugar, blood urea nitrogen, urinalysis, fecal examination, electrolyte analysis, and a complete blood count. Further, if necessary, your vet may suggest you do some head and spinal X-rays, CT scans, ultrasound and MRI.

What can you do to stop Head Tremors?

You don’t need to worry about it as this occurs for a short period and doesn’t cause any pain to the dog. However, observing and monitoring the whole incident is still a good idea. It will help you to explain it nicely to the vet; by doing so, you will help the vet to rule out some of the serious issues related to head shaking. Many owners have discovered different ways to handle these issues; some common methods are given below.

  • As the head tremor or head shaking occurs for a brief period, many owners prefer to comfort their Dobie through petting and reassurance or wait until it passes.
  • You can distract your Dobie by offering him his/ her favorite toys and encouraging them to focus on them. Puzzle toys are very effective in controlling head shaking. Or you can play with them their favorite games.
  • Offering food or giving them their favorite treats helps distract them from head shaking. Many owners claim that peanut butter does wonder.
  • When your Doberman shakes his/her head uncontrollably, try to engage them in a game they love to play the most. You can try different games such as hide and seek or find a treat under the cup. These games require their full attention and will also distract them.
  • You can also engage them in a training session. Ask them to perform some basic commands with which they are familiar. It can be an excellent mental distractor.

There is no proven method to handle these head-shaking episodes. But the distraction technique is considered to be the most effective way to deal with it. 

Is it a seizure?

Many people get confused by these head shaking with a seizure since it seems completely involuntary for a dog. But in reality, the symptoms of seizure are a bit different from head shaking. If your Dobie suffers from a seizure, he will experience seized muscles, altered consciousness, lost mobility, and so on. Dogs experiencing seizures might also bite their tongue, drool, foam around or at their mouth, defect or urinate, kick their legs frantically, and will be unable to walk. These symptoms are not a sign of Head Bobbing Syndrome. 

Bottom Line

There might be several reasons why a Doberman is shivering, trembling, or shaking. However, if your Dobie is unknowingly shaking his neck and head area, then it might be possible that they are suffering from Head Bobbing Syndrome. If your dog is experiencing the same, then you don’t need to worry about it. Many young Dobies are prone to go through this kind of experience. Eventually, it will go away, but if it continues, then consult with a veterinarian as soon as possible. They will help you to deal with this issue more efficiently.


Why is my dog’s head bobbing and shaking?

Head bobbing syndrome is harmless, and you don’t need to worry about it so much. It is still unclear why dogs are experiencing this kind of episode. Closely analyze your dog when they are experiencing this and try to engage them in other work or games or just make them involved in other productive activities that can help them to deal with these issues.

What is head bobbing a symptom of?

If your Dobie suffers from Head Bobbing Syndrome, it will twitch or shake its head unknowingly or unintentionally.

How long do idiopathic head tremors last?

The duration, severity, and frequency of head tremors vary from one doggy to another. But generally, it lasts for at least 3 to 4 mins, and tremors can occur while the dog is standing, sitting, resting, or sleeping.

How do you stop idiopathic head tremors in dogs?

There is no proven treatment available for Idiopathic head tremors. Distraction techniques may be helpful for dogs experiencing head shaking or tremors regularly. Talk to the dog, offer them food, and treats, and you can easily distract them from this incident by playing games. 

Jason Morgan

Jason Morgan

I'm Jason Morgan, founder and author at I just love Dobermans - they're the best dogs in the world! I got my first Doberman, Max, when I was just a pup myself. Max was my loyal friend and protector for over ten years. Since then, I've been working hard to learn everything I can about these amazing dogs. I started DobermanWiki as a place to share all that knowledge with other Doberman enthusiasts like me. My goal is to help every Doberman owner have the best possible relationship with their dog. I'm always happy to chat with other Doberman owners, so feel free to reach out anytime!

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