Why Do Dogs Chase their Tails?

This post seeks answers to the question; “Why do dogs chase their tails?” It also explores reasons for tail chasing in puppies as well as why they may accompany the behavior with tail biting. Also included is a section with suggestions on how to stop tail chasing in dogs.

Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

The nature and extent of tail chasing in dogs differs and is dependent on the causes. A mild infestation of fleas could see your dog only chase the tail subtly while a serious case of compulsive behavior could cause a dog to chase its tail with a lot of enthusiasm resulting in self-injury.

The scenarios of this behavior may also vary. While the chasing may be triggered by environmental factors, it could also be as a result of behavioral problems. Where the cause is a flea infestation, the chasing may start gradually before building up as the infestation intensifies. In other cases, factors such as trauma on the tail could precipitate tail chasing. Below we discuss why dogs chase their tails in details.

Dog Chasing Tail Causes

Why do dogs chase their tails? This common question among dog owners does not have a universal answer. On the contrary, different situations result in dogs exhibiting this behavior. These are some common reasons why dogs chase their tails.

Genetic Predisposition

Are you wondering why German Shepherds chase their tails? The reason is because there are some breeds that are genetically predisposed to chasing their tails. This is in addition to other compulsive disorders. German Shepherds, Dobermans, Bull Terriers will engage in tail chasing as a hereditary tendency.

Fleas and Ticks

Dogs tend to bite and lick areas affected by fleas and ticks to get relief from the accompanying discomfort. As a result, the fleas learn to hide in areas that are not easily accessible by their host. The tail is one of the prime areas that fleas love to reside. The discomfort and itch that result from the bites could be the reason why your dog is chasing its tail. Inspecting this area can affirm this. Where this is the cause, eliminating the fleas or ticks will stop the behavior.

Injury

When a dog has an injury on the tail such as when they suffer happy tail syndrome, get hit on by something or if they get irritated by insect bites or strings, they may chase their tail. This is so as to ease the associated pain and discomfort.

Seeking Attention

Dogs can be manipulative and once they learn that a certain behavior grants them attention, they will engage in it to woe their owners to pay more attention to them. If he learns that you show concern and pay more attention whenever they chase their tail, they will do so. As long as the attention continues to be granted to them, the behavior gets reinforced.

In such cases, the best way to stop the behavior is by ignoring your dog whenever they engage in tail chasing. Substitute this with proactive as opposed to reactive attention. Give them belly rubs and Frisbee tosses as you play around.

Excess Energy

High energy dogs need intensive physical activities. Where it is lacking, a dog may engage in destructive behavior such as chewing on furniture, digging holes as well as chasing their tail. Their engagement in tail chasing may therefore be a displacement behavior. This helps to release any pent up energy they may have. To stop this, ensure your dog gets sufficient physical activity.

Boredom

Dogs, too, get bored if most of their time is unoccupied by other activities. This is more so where the concerned dogs are young ones. These get easily bored and will engage in any activity to kill the boredom.

In other situations, boredom could occur in dogs that are kept in social isolation and other forms of confinement. In such situations a dog chasing tail will simply be a playful activity through which they pass time.

Exploration

This is more so where a puppy is chasing their own tail. At a tender age, they love to explore their surroundings. It is for the same reason that their curiosity will lead them to chasing flies and other objects. The flicker of their tail may lead them into exploring it thus causing them to chase it endlessly.

Itch

The tail is located at the rear end making it hard to reach. As a result, whenever a dog is faced by an urge to scratch the tail, it may be a bit cumbersome for them. This could see them chasing their tail in a bit to reach a specific point on it that is itching. The itch may be caused by pests such as fleas or ticks and getting them of your dog’s tail will help put them at ease.

Compulsive Behavior

Dogs that suffer compulsive behavior tend to be fixated on a certain activity which may become destructive with time. According to petmd.com, compulsive behavior in dogs involves an exaggeration of behaviors that would otherwise be considered normal. The said behaviors tend to be exhibited out of context and are repeated for long periods.

These behaviors are as a result of stress, frustration or internal conflict. They can be corrected by engaging an animal behaviorist. Dog chasing tail aggressively is listed as one of the obsessive behavior a dog may indulge in in addition to chewing on objects, fly biting and licking a body part.

Anal Gland Issues

When dogs suffer anal sac impaction, there is a buildup of fluid within the glands. It also becomes hard for the dog to naturally empty the sacs resulting in irritation. If your dog is scooting and at the same time chasing their tail, the problem could be in the glands. Fortunately, emptying the sacs manually will ease the problem. This can be done by a pet groomer or a veterinarian.

Tail Chasing in Older Dogs

Old age can see your dog chasing their tail. This could be caused by a decrease in awareness of their body. As dogs age, their minds cease to be as sharp as they were in their younger days. As a result, dogs may revert to behaviors of their formative days and this may include tail chasing.

Dog Chasing Tail and Crying or Growling

The main reason why a dog would chase their tail and cry is to express some discomfort. This could be pain or itch. A number of things could cause these. Inspect the tail to see if your dog’s tail is getting irritated by flea bites. If there are no fleas, check for any form of injury or sores.

Another reason while you dog may whine and cry while chasing their tail is if they have anal gland problems. If the anal sacs become impacted in case the fluid in them is not expressed, they will be swollen and uncomfortable. This could lead to your dog chasing their rear end in a bid to relief themselves.

Anal glands can be expressed manually. This relieves the pressure your dog is experiencing and gets them back to normality. At times though, professional treatment may be necessary if the glands stay too long without being emptied and as a result become infected.

Why do Puppies Chase and Bite their Tails

The reasons why puppies may chase their tails are no different from those of mature dogs. They could engage in chasing the tail as a result of venting out pent up energy, exploration, to seek attention or when they are bored. Where they are also involved in biting their own tail, the most likely culprit is the presence of fleas or an itch caused by other insects or skin related conditions.

How to Stop Dog from Chasing Tail

Now that you have answers to “why do dogs chase their tails?” bringing the behavior to a stop depends on the cause. Here are a few suggestions on how to stop dog chasing tail:

  • Keep your dog occupied by engaging him in physical activities such as playing fetch and long walks through fields or in parks.
  • Reduce boredom by availing an assortment of toys throughout the day especially in moments where the dog is left alone.
  • Avoid having him confined and segregated from people for long periods
  • In case the habit is as a result of obsessive behavior, your veterinarian may prescribe some medication to curb it.

References

One comment

  1. I couldn’t resist commenting. Well written!

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