Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

Dog Tail

Is This Normal Behavior?

You're watching your pup chase his or her tail and it can be amusing, for both you to watch and the dog to spin round and round. Is this normal or is there something to be worried about here? Sure, we've all seen a dog chase its own tail from time to time, and for the most part, it's a mild distraction for your pet. 


But depending on how often your dog partakes in this activity and the severity of it, there could be something else going on that you may need to look into. Your dog may be dealing with a health concern or a behavioral matter and it could be time to see a veterinarian. 


Related: How Often Do You Walk Your Dog? 

Reasons Your Dog Might Be Chasing Their Tail

Let's take a look at the reasons why dogs chase their tails to determine when it's only harmless fun and when it could be a symptom of an underlying condition. 


Boredom

Think about it - if you had a tail wouldn't you chase it too? Okay, maybe that's just us. But when it's your pup chasing his or her own tail, the most common reason for such wacky antics is just simple boredom. Does that make it okay? Not entirely. 

Dogs need mental stimulation as much as they need physical stimulation. Chasing their tail is a way for your dog to expend pent-up energy and stay focused on a challenging task. If your dog craves that stimulation and has reverted to tail-chasing, it falls to you to assess how you can provide your pup with more mental stimulation and figure out a better alternative to cure your pup's boredom. 

 

Playfulness

This word is synonymous with puppies, and so if your little pup has taken a liking to running in circles in order to catch his or her tail, you can chalk it up to the typical rambunctiousness of youth. Puppies are very inquisitive, always playing but always learning in the process. They may be wondering just what is that thing stuck to their butt and try to grab it. A quick bite will likely tell them all they need to know.


Attention-Seeking Behavior

This brings us back to the boredom issue. If your dog feels as if he or she is being neglected, ignored, or simply wants attention that isn't being given, a run for the tail may be just the thing they think needs to be done in order to get you to notice. Consider it a request for more physical stimulation than is currently being given. Your dog wants to play and have fun with you! 


Compulsion

Studies have demonstrated that certain dog breeds are more likely to chase their tails than others. Anatolian Sheepdogs and German Shepherds are more commonly tail-chasers and many terrier breeds such as Bull Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, and West Highland White Terriers have shown a proclivity towards the same. This doesn't mean your pet will be among them, but the compulsion seems to be greater in certain breeds than others. 


Parasites and Fleas

Dogs get fleas and ticks - it's just a natural part of life for them. But if your pet is suffering from a flea or parasite infestation, he or she may be chasing their own tail as a way to get at a particularly nasty and nagging itch. A dog will scratch and bite at areas that have been affected by fleas and ticks and, for some dogs, the tail can be a hot zone of parasitic occupation. This is especially true in dogs with longer coats. So if you see your pooch spinning in circles as a routine behavior, there could be a flea or tick issue that needs to be addressed immediately. 


Medical Conditions - When To Be Concerned

Depending upon which veterinary professionals you ask, you're bound to hear a multitude of potential medical conditions that explain tail-chasing. The problem could be neurological and related to potential seizures where chasing the tail is one of the signs. There are other theories ranging from mental illness and cancer to infection in or near the tail and even orthopedic discomfort. This is not to suggest that your dog has any of these medical conditions simply because he or she is chasing their tail, but there have been some connections in other cases.

Dog looking at its tail

What Should You Do If Your Dog Is Chasing Its Tail

If it's normal behavior that your dog is enjoying every once in a while, it may just be a way to pass the time. But if you notice that it has become a habit, there could be something else at play here. Take your dog outside for more social interaction with other people and pets from time to time. A visit to the dog park may solve the issue. However, routine demonstration of this type of behavior could signal a bigger problem. If you suspect a more serious underlying cause, a visit to the vet may be in order.


Looking for more tips and advice on raising your pup? Be sure to visit the Two Tails Blog.



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