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Dog Tales & Puppy Adventures: Why Does My Dog Chase His Tail?

A dog parent has probably seen their little furry friend spin and chase its own tail several times. It’s akin to watching a baby become confused and surprised when they see their reflection in the mirror. It’s adorable, endearing, and downright silly. But if this behavior increases alarmingly, could your pet be experiencing an underlying medical issue? 

A dog’s tail-chasing is mostly a harmless canine quirk, but how can we tell if it will escalate into something more serious? Let’s discover why a dog chases their tail and learn how we can deal with this odd behavior. 

Tales of Tail-Chasing: Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

Dogs are known for being too playful and having too much energy. Your little pup could be barking at an inanimate object for a moment and spin like an uncontrollable yoyo in pursuit of its tail the next. 

Several reasons cause a dog to chase their tail: playfulness, curiosity, attention, stress or anxiety, or an underlying mental health issue. 

Form of Play

As mentioned, some dogs can’t spend a second sitting on their hind legs. They have so much physical energy that they just can’t help but jump on their paws and initiate some form of play. That’s where tail-chasing comes in. 

Most of the time, dogs chase their tail to battle boredom or release pent-up energy. If your pet doesn’t get much physical exercise or activity, they will likely chase their tails to let loose and have a little fun. 

Curiosity

During their first few months, babies start making grasping motions with their hands and putting their toes in their mouths. They do so to discover and become aware of their bodies. The same thing goes for dogs. 

Besides having a lot of energy, puppies are likely to chase their tails because they are getting to know their bodies. And since they are still unfamiliar with their bodies, puppies cannot comprehend that tails are part of their bodies, seeing them instead as fascinating toys.

Looking for Attention

Dogs chasing their tails will naturally elicit laughter and amusement from the people around them. These positive reactions might reinforce and encourage your pets to repeat the behavior. Dogs are astonishingly similar to humans, aren’t they? 

Your pet might increasingly spin and chase its tail to get attention, turning tail-chasing from a mere form of play to attention-seeking behavior. Whether you laugh at your dog chasing their tail or reprimand them for their quirk, your pet will likely continue doing the behavior because they love the response. 

Sign of Stress or Anxiety

When your dog begins repetitively chasing their tail, they might be experiencing stress or anxiety. According to pet experts, dogs may engage in repetitive behaviors when feeling nervous because these actions can comfort or relieve their uneasiness. 

Dogs may develop anxiety because of the following:

  • Separation from their owner and abandonment
  • Loud noises
  • Being around other aggressive pets or people
  • New environments
  • Overwhelming visual stimuli
  • Prior traumatic experiences
  • Abuse or neglect from owner

Tail-chasing might be a coping compulsion for some dogs. It’s best to immediately bring your pet to a veterinarian if you suspect they are experiencing these fears.

Symptom of a Mental Health Issue

While the behavior is relatively common in dogs, obsessively chasing their tails may stem from a more grave medical condition. If your dog continuously chases their tail for no apparent reason, your pet may have developed canine compulsive disorder (CCD). 

Like OCD in humans, dogs can repeat normal behaviors, such as licking, barking, drinking water, pacing, spinning, and tail-chasing, to the point where these actions hinder and interfere with their normal activities. 

CCD may develop because of genetic reasons. Certain breeds are more prone to contract the disorder and develop CCD differently. For example, German Shepherds are likely to develop compulsive tail chasing, while Doberman Pinschers may engage in repetitive sucking. 

The disorder may also stem from a lack of mental and physical activity, increased mental distress or anxiety, frustration, or insufficient attention from the dog owner. 

In addition, tail-chasing may also indicate mental deterioration. Older dogs may have compulsive behavior like tail chasing because their mental health and bodily awareness are declining. 

Bite Off More Than You Can Chew: The Case of Tail-Chewing

A dog chasing their tail is one thing; a dog chewing on it is another. Tail biting and chewing is another common dog behavior that initially seems harmless but may indicate several underlying problems. 

Dogs may chew on their tails because of the following:

  1. Allergies: Your puppy may bite on their tail to reduce and relieve the itch of an allergic reaction. Allergies can result from exposure to pollen, spores, fallen skin cells, or changes in your dog’s food
  2. Injury and pain: Nipping on their tail may indicate injury or pain in the area. Your pet might have injured their tail, putting their spine at risk. Biting tails may provide relief and comfort from the pain.
  3. Fleas: Your dog’s tail area may also be infected by fleas, ticks, and other bugs if they keep biting it. Your pet may chew on their tail to relieve the itch due to the infestation.  
  4. Parasites: Tail-biting may also indicate intestinal parasites. Other symptoms include weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and worms exiting their anal area. 

Managing Your Pet’s Tail-Chasing Adventures

This quirky dog behavior may become bothersome after a while. Here are some measures you can take to manage your dog’s tail-chasing and chewing behaviors. 

  1. Distract your dog. The best and fastest way to stop your pet from chasing their tail is to catch their attention with a toy or food. 
  2. Spend more time with your pet. Play catch with your little pup, visit a park, or take them out for a simple walk—these seemingly mundane yet fun activities would do them good. 
  3. Visit the veterinarian if the symptoms signify an underlying medical condition. Getting your dog checked will help solve any physical or mental issues promptly and prevent them from worsening.

Final Thoughts

A dog chasing their tail may seem like an amusing and silly quirk at first, but when it develops into a repetitive and obsessive behavior, it might be a sign of unresolved underlying physical or mental health issues. As a dog owner, you must keenly observe and notice the signs before it’s too late. 

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