Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails? Catch The Reasons Why


why do dogs chase their tail

Dogs can seem extremely smart in specific scenarios, but when caught chasing their tails, it is not their finest moment. It is a little humorous to watch them chase something that they have no chances of catching, but why exactly do they do this?

Why do dogs chase their tails?

Boredom is the most common reason why dogs will go in circles chasing their tail. It is not only fun for them, but it burns off and energy. Other reasons include anything from merely wanting attention, to a medical issue that needs attention.

dog chasing tail

Harmless tail chasing

The good news for dog owners is that more often than not, tail chasing is entirely normal and safe for their furry friend. It might look a little weird, but there is a reason why they are doing it.

Boredom

Dogs can get bored at certain times during the day, especially if they have a lot of energy to burn. The younger the dog is, the more likely they are to chase their tail because they have nothing else to do at the time.

Stimulation is pretty easy to come by for dogs who have a lot of energy. Anything that moves can potentially be a toy, and they might not even realize that the tail they are chasing is not a toy. They will continue to go in a circle until their head is a little dizzy, or they wear out.

It might not seem all that safe for dogs to do, but it is not going to harm them in any way. They usually stop before they get too busy, and it is a pretty healthy way to burn some energy. Puppies are likely going to be phasing out of this type of play as they age.

Encouragement

Dogs react positively to humans giving them encouragement and attention. If humans are responding to the dog running around in circles chasing their tail, they might be more likely to do it in the future. They realize that getting eyes on them and receiving laughter is entertaining, and it will give them enough notice to play more possibly.

Some dogs will even use this tail-chasing tactic to grab the attention of the owner for something else. They become trained in a way to think that this is an easy way to get attention when they want it for a variety of things.

If the chasing becomes a little too annoying, simply ignore them when they are doing it. Another way is to discourage them with words so that they are not encouraged.

Harmful tail chasing

There are reasons to pay attention to a dog chasing their tail. No one wants to have any issues with their dog as far as chasing is concerned, so look for warning signs that indicate something is up.

More frequent chasing

Once a dog figures out how to chase their tail, they might do the activity quite a bit in the short term. However, a combination of age and figuring things out means that the frequency should die down as time goes on. If it is trending the other way, it might mean that there is something wrong.

It is especially alarming if a dog goes from not chasing their tail at all, to nipping at it and trying to chew it off. No, this does not mean that they are trying to harm themselves, but it usually relates to some medical issue. Maybe there are fleas or ticks they are trying to get rid of, or some other problem that is causing pain or itching.

Check the dog’s coat to see if any particular pests are causing them a disturbance. If it continues, taking a dog to a veterinarian to get checked will provide an accurate answer on whether or not they have something.

dog looks back in a field

Compulsion disorder

Dogs can have compulsion disorder, just like humans. It is a behavior problem that might need professional assistance in dealing with if it continues. The good news is that there are a lot of veterinarians who can assist when this happens. They see it happen in dogs of all ages and breeds, and will provide owners with ideas on how to cure the disorder as quickly as possible.

There is no one reason for a compulsion disorder to develop. Dogs can be very emotional, so being confined in one area for too long, going through physical abuse, having serious injuries, or other issues can all lead to a compulsion disorder. Sometimes it is all about making some day-to-day changes to help the dog improve its quality of life. In other cases, medication can help a dog improve mentally. It might not be an instance change in how they act, but owners will start to see steady improvement as time goes on.

What type of harm can a dog do to their tails?

A small amount of biting and chewing is not going to do much harm to a dog. The vast majority of dogs will stop once they realize that it is painful, so there is very little to worry about when it comes to their tail. However, on occasion, dogs will continue to go down that road to the point that they can cause serious harm to their tails.

The first noticeable difference will be hair loss on the tail. It might be temporary if only chewed on for a little bit, but it could become a permanent issue if a dog begins to develop a compulsive disorder.

An even more severe issue is permanent damage to a tail, to the point that they might need surgery. In fact, there are extreme cases where dogs have had to have their tails removed because of too much damage.

Losing the tail does not usually happen in a short amount of time, so there are plenty of warning signs before it gets to this extreme. Just make sure to take those warning signs seriously and cut out any habits that are developing as quickly as possible. 

In general, most veterinarians recommend that owners discourage this behavior as dogs start to show it more and more. Even if it seems innocent, developing bad habits have a higher chance of leading towards something bad happening later on.

Do certain dog breeds chase their tails more than others?

Studies show that certain breeds are more likely to chase their tail than others. Some of this has to do with the build of their body. For a dog to feel stimulated, they need to see the right amount of the tail while also finding it incredibly tricky actually to catch. German shepherds and terriers are two breeds that seem to fall in love with chasing their tail.

Any high energy breed is going to have a higher chance of chasing a tail. It comes down to the amount of energy they have, as well as how long they have been unable to burn it all. Some dogs will have no choice but to find their own entertainment if they stay trapped in a small area for a long time.

Another sign of a dog being more likely to chase their dog comes down to their cholesterol levels. Higher levels of high- and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol can spark a dog’s desire to run around chasing their tail to burn off energy.

What are the best ways to stop a dog from chasing my tail?

The easiest solution to stop a dog from chasing their tail is to increase the amount of daily physical activity they receive. As mentioned above, the primary reason why dogs start this in the first place is that they have too much energy in their body. A completely worn out dog is not going to take part in this activity on their own.

Also, make sure to supply them with a proper amount of toys so that they stay occupied. There is nothing worse than finding a dog not occupied and having to search for their own toys. This is when they start to be a bit destructive and receive blame for being out of control. In actuality, is the owner who is letting their dog down by not providing them something to chew on or play with.

dog bitting tail

Final thoughts of dogs and their tails

Dogs have many different ways to burn off energy and stay entertained that they should not have to rely on their tail. Even if it seems completely innocent and something puppies will grow out of, start discouraging the behavior if it becomes a bit too common.

If it is a new habit they are picking up, monitor the situation to make sure that it is not a more serious medical condition. Dogs can start to fall into different habits when something changes in their life. 

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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