Why Dogs Chase Their Tail? Dogs and Tail Chasing

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Do you find it cute when your dog spends hours chasing your tail? Or you see it as a sign of underlying health issues? Read on to discover just how dangerous tail chasing is.

Dogs do goofy things all year round. They are often seen making unusual jumps, entertaining smaller pets, or simply spending hours chasing their tail.

It looks as if they really love chasing that body part of theirs. Have you ever stopped to wonder why they do it?

Let’s bust this myth once for all and learn why dogs chase their tails.

Compulsive Behavior In Dogs

It’s very common to see dogs chasing their tails. You may even see a dog chasing his tail over and over again, but in a circle.

Dogs do unusual things that may be strange to humans. The reason for this lies in different ways of communication and behaviors between dogs and humans.

Just like with children, puppies are especially excited about weird things, like their tails chasing them – or at least how it looks to them.

So, sometimes dogs will do it just for fun. In some cases, chasing their tails can be a sign of compulsive behavior. Now, what a compulsive behavior is?

Compulsive behavior is a specific behavior that is shown for a longer time than normal, repeated out of context to a specific situation that is considered abnormal.

Also, compulsive behaviors tend to get worse over time and in most cases require either behavioral or medical treatment.

What starts as a game can easily turn into compulsive behavior.

So, cute tail chasing can become a nonstop habit that may be concerning for you and your dog’s body. If this becomes a habit you should talk to your veterinarian. So, why do dogs chase their tails?

Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

The reasons for tail chasing may differ from dog to dog, but there are still some common reasons why dogs chase their tails:

1. They Are Just Having Fun

Dogs love to be active. After all, they were all bred to help with certain tasks.

That’s why some dogs are so good at hunting, others as guard dogs, while some are exceptional swimmers. They all had a purpose.

So, when they get to be couch potatoes all day long, they tend to get bored easily.

Plus, if you leave your dog for extra hours alone, he may develop separation anxiety, which then takes a lot of time to cure.

2. They Are Bored

As mentioned above, dogs love to do fun things, and when left alone or without interactive toys, they may experience boredom. As a result, you can see your pooch chasing his tail all day long.

Dogs need a lot of physical activity to stay in shape, avoid obesity, and remain mentally stimulated.

3. There Is An Underlying Medical Condition

Since dogs cannot communicate as humans do with each other, they have to be creative for us to understand them.

Dogs rely on their body language to communicate with humans.

In some cases, strange behavior from their side can be their way of telling us that they are in pain.

Often, dogs may suffer from an underlying medical condition and a compulsive tail-chasing can be a sign that your dog is in pain.

Have you ever experienced a headache so strong that you pull your hair creating relief? A similar approach applies to dogs and their behavior when in pain.

If tail chasing isn’t something that’s common for your dog, you should take it to your veterinarian immediately.

What About Fleas?

Do you treat your dog for fleas? Sometimes dogs chase their tails due to fleas. Their tail can become really itchy as a result of an infestation or even flea bite allergy.

So, before you contact your veterinarian make sure to check the tail skin. You need to focus on small and dark brown to black specks in their coat (which are flea feces).

Search for bald patches also. Sometimes dogs may scratch or lick specific areas excessively and create bald patches.

There may be other reasons why your dog might be chewing his tail, including:

  • Pain. Dogs tend to chew painful areas to ease the pain.
  • Allergic reaction. Dogs may try to ease any itching or discomfort by chewing, including allergies.
  • Fleas. These small bugs can be a real menace, as mentioned above. Always treat your dog against fleas.
  • Intestinal parasites. Make sure that you treat your dog regularly for internal parasites. In some cases of a worm infection, dogs may chew their tail to ease irritation.
  • Anxiety. In some cases, the dog may lick their tails when they feel anxious. This is frequent during a storm, vet’s visit, or when new guests arrive.
  • Trauma to the tail or spine. Surprisingly, spine and tail trauma/injuries aren’t seen at first, but a dog who chews tail can suffer from these traumas. A broken tail can cause many issues.

In other instances, a dog biting their tail may be a sign of compulsive behavior, which we have already discussed above.

Is Tail Chasing More Common in Certain Breeds?

Certain dogs are better at swimming than others, and certain breeds are better at hiking or running because they were built for certain activities.

Does this mean that certain breeds are more prone to tail-chasing than others?

Well, according to this article published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information, certain breeds are prone to tail chasing, such as:

However, there isn’t enough statistical data to confirm these claims.

How Can You Treat Tail Chasing?

Tail chasing may seem like a fun and harmless action that keeps your dog entertained for hours but in fact, it’s a sign of possible issues.

No matter how fun it may be to look at your canine having fun with his tail only, you shouldn’t encourage it. Instead, you should monitor his behavior, and try to find the source of the issues.

Unless you have a puppy, who is yet not tail-aware you should monitor your dog for any of the causes listed above and contact a veterinarian when needed.

Yet, the best way to treat tail chasing in your dog is to take him to your veterinarian who can confirm if a dog has any medical issues or not.

If everything is fine, from a medical point of view, you should focus on stopping on training your dog to stop his tail. Here is how you can do that.

How to Train Your Dog to Stop Chasing His Tail

You might be surprised but the very first thing that you should here is to stop laughing. Dogs are superb when it comes to body language.

So, when you laughing at your dog while chasing his tail, he will see this action as something that you approve of and enjoy. Simply said, by laughing you are reinforcing this behavior.

Eventually, this will lead to a type of obsessive-compulsive behavior that can be triggered by anxiety or stress.

Many dogs just outgrow this behavior, while others need to be trained. Not that tail chasing is bad for your dog, but it can lead to some accidents since so much spinning is included.

The sooner you start working on these issues, the sooner your dog will leave his tail alone. Here is how to train your dog to stop chasing his tail.

Once you are sure that everything is ok with your dog from a medical point of view, you can start training your canine.

As the first step, especially if you have a puppy, you should try to spend more time with your dog.

Don’t forget that the best dog is a tired dog. Dogs love being active, exercising, and testing their skills in dog sports.

Still, taking your dog for a run or a long walk once a week isn’t enough. Dogs need exercise time every day to burn off excess energy.

Work on new tricks. This way you will provide enough distraction to take his mind off chasing his tail.

As soon as he starts to chase his tail, use the command to ‘stop‘. Once he does that, reward him with a treat and a pat on the head. Keep repeating this until he stops chasing his tail.

The Bottom Line

It’s not uncommon to see dogs chasing their tails. At first, it may seem funny to look at your dog chasing his tail, but in no time it can become a real issue. As soon as you notice your dog chasing his tail, you should react.

Check him for fleas, and try to provide more exercise. If this doesn’t work take him to the veterinarian, because he might be trying to tell you that he is in some sort of distress.

If your dog chases his tail repeatedly or injures it by biting it, consult your veterinarian.

You may notice the first signs of trouble, but only your veterinarian can identify any underlying medical or behavioral problems and adress them properly.

So, as soon as your dog changes his behavior you should react. Whenever you suspect that your dog’s health is in danger, you should talk to your veterinarian.