As a dog lover and owner you have probably witnessed your pooch chasing its tail. Sometimes it may be just the occasional chase and other times your dog may resemble a tornado. When it is only an occasional tail chase it is usually harmless behaviour, however, if the tail chasing appears to be obsessive then there could be a health issue.
So, why do dogs chase their tails? Some of the common reasons are as follows:
Pleasure – most dogs simply chase their tails for pleasure. Puppies can become fascinated with this appendage and will try and catch it
Boredom – We all lead busy lives and dogs that are left alone for extended periods may become bored. Chasing their tail is a way for them to have fun and expend some energy although most dogs would rather chase a ball than their own tails. This is a great indicator for pet owners to start taking more walks or tossing a ball more often to help reduce boredom.
Attention – Dogs constantly amuse us with their playful antics which includes running in tight circles in endless pursuit of their own tail. Our pets might be demonstrating this behaviour to please us because we have shown them some positive reinforcement in the past. They recreate the behaviour to get our attention so that we will take notice and play with them. Dogs crave attention and respond to both positive and negative attention. To try and stop your dog from doing this you can try ignoring them whilst they are chasing their tail and praise them when they are not.
Medical – If your dog suddenly starts chasing or biting its tail something may be wrong and it could be chasing and chewing on its tail to soothe an injury or some discomfort. Sometimes tail chasing can be caused by your dog being bothered by an infestation of intestinal worms or fleas or it may have an infection or some other medical condition and you should perhaps schedule a trip to the vet.
Genetics – interestingly tail chasing can be more prevalent in certain breeds, which is evidence in support of a genetic predisposition. It is thought that breeds such as German shepherds, sheepdogs and terriers tend to engage in tail-chasing more than other breeds.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Just like humans some dogs may develop OCD and one of the signs of this is tail chasing and spinning. There could be a number of causes such as separation anxiety, becoming over-excited or they might have an injury and find it soothing and then continue to chew or chase their tail after the injury is healed. Ways to try and combat OCD is to increase their exercise, reduce stress by trying to identify anything that may cause them to be anxious. Do not encourage this behaviour, if it seems compulsive, with positive reinforcement such as laughing and giving them attention as this will perpetuate the problem. Only reward positive behaviour such as when they are calm, lying quietly or sitting quietly before going out for a walk.
It helps if you can observe your dog carefully and identify the triggers that initiate the tail chasing and, if it is infrequent and it is apparent they are just having fun, there is no harm in laughing and giving them a bit of attention. However, do not ignore potential problems.
If you have any videos or images of your dog chasing there tail please share them with us on Facebook or Instagram.