Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

Dogs provide all sorts of entertainment, but one of the funniest things they do has to be when they chase their tail. Seemingly out of the blue, dogs can start spinning in circles, trying to catch their tail. It may seem strange to us as humans, however, it can be a sign of bigger problems.

Tail chasing can be caused by a whole raft of things and behavioural issues. In this article, we hope to answer the question of “why does my dog chase their tail?” and help you fix the issue if it is becoming serious.

Why Dog Dogs Chase Their Tails?

There are many reasons for tail chasing in dogs and in some cases it may be caused by more than one thing. Below we have created a list of some of the reasons why your dog may be chasing their tail.

Boredom

The number one reason for tail chasing is undoubtedly caused by boredom. Just like humans, dogs need exercise and mental stimulation to keep them from getting bored, and if they don’t get it they will make their own fun.

Those with puppies or younger dogs will probably experience more tail chasing as they have higher energy levels than older canines. Younger dogs may not even realise that that their tail is part of their body.

While tail chasing caused from boredom is not necessarily harmful to your dog, it can be a sign that they are not receiving the required exercise or mental stimulation. To fix this you may need to take them for more walks, buy them some new toys and interact with them on a more regular basis.

If your dog is chasing their tail and you have not been able to find a reason, it is almost certainly caused by boredom. The good thing is that it is pretty easy to fix.

Attention

Just like a naughty child will do something to get their parents attention, dogs can chase their tails to get your attention. This reason usually emerges after a dog has started chasing their tail for a different reason.

For example, your dog may have originally started chasing their tail because they were bored, but because you gave them attention when they did so, they see that as positive reinforcement. Your dog will associate the attention you give them with the act of chasing their tail, which will cause them to do it in the future to get a reaction from you.

There is really no problem with this behaviour, but it can hide other problems with your dog such as boredom, infection or injury. The fix for this is to simply not give your dog attention when they chase their tail, however, we know how hard this can be.

Infection, Injury or Other Problems

Like we said above, tail chasing can be a sign of infection or injury. Infection can be quite painful and itchy, and they can cause your dog to chase their tail. It can even lead to your dog attempting to chew and bite on their tail to relieve the irritation.

Some dogs are more likely to develop these sort of issues than other breeds. Canines with corkscrew tails are more to develop bacterial infections as their tails can be very tight or even dig into their skin.

While it is rare, serious injury or infection can lead to your dog’s tail being amputated, however, most tail problems can be cured relatively easily. We recommend that you regularly check your dog’s tail (and their body) for any signs of infection, skin problems or injury.

Read more about dog skin conditions and diseases here.

Genetics

Interestingly, genetics play a role in the amount a dog chases their tail. Breeds like German Shepherds and terriers are more likely to participate in a bit of tail chasing action than other breeds of dog.

The reasons for this are unknown and there is no fix for the problem. We suggest that you try to keep your dog well, exercised and mentally stimulated throughout the day to reduce the tail chasing.

Mental Illness

Mental illness in humans is still an incredibly complex field and it’s no different for dogs. Some dogs can develop a compulsive disorder that involves them chasing or chewing their tail. This sort of behaviour can come about for many reasons from physical abuse, injury, confinement, separation anxiety and many more. This compulsive behaviour can even lead to injury or the development of aggressive behaviour, so it should not be left untreated.

Dogs that compulsively chase or bite their tail can experience hair loss on their tail and even injuries that may require veterinary treatment.

Treating this compulsive disorder may require specialist treatment or medication. You should talk to your vet about your dog’s behaviour and make sure they are receiving plenty of exercise, attention and love. Try not to punish your dog and instead focus on positive reinforcement as this can help.

Here’s a bit more information about tail chasing in dogs caused by mental illness.

Why Do Dogs Chew Their Tails?

Just like tail chasing, biting or chewing can be caused by a number of different reasons including boredom, injury or stress. In addition to this, tail chewing can also be caused by the following.

Parasitic Infestations

Fleas and ticks are common on dogs and they can spread like wildfire, especially in confined areas. A dog that has fleas may bite or chew the site where they are having a reaction to the flea’s saliva. Additionally, tapeworms can cause physical discomfort or irritation in the area around the anus, causing a dog to gnaw at the base of their tail.

If your dog is suffering from a parasitic infestation, you should seek advice from your veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to advise you on the best treatment plan. We have also written an article on “The best flea treatment for dogs”.

Allergies

Inflammation of the skin or dermatitis can also be caused by allergies, which can lead to tail biting. Like humans, a dogs first instinct to a skin allergy is to scratch it (or in a dog’s case bite it). Allergies may simply require a specific shampoo or more complex medication may be needed. Also check your dog’s diet, as certain food products or items can lead to allergic reactions.

Hot Spots

Hot spots are caused by excessive scratching or chewing, which leads to an open wound. Bacteria finds its way into the warm moist wound and can quickly form a hot sport or secondary infection. A trip to the vets can help you diagnose this problem, and the underlying causes can be anything from hygiene to nutrition or stress.

Impacted Anal Glands

While talking about a dog’s anal glands isn’t the nicest thing, impacted ones are a common problem. Canine anal glands are incredibly important as they secrete fluids that dogs smell when they meet each other.

Signs that your dog may have anal gland issues include bum dragging fouler-than-normal smell from their behind, trouble defecating, blood or pus in their feces and of course tail biting.

Anal gland problems can be caused by dietary issues amongst other things. Improper defecating can lead to impacted anal glands (a common problem for dogs that suffer from regular diarrhea).

Now we’ve covered all that, check out this video of some of the best tail chasing videos around.

Summing Up Why Do Dogs Chase and Chew Their Tails?

As you can see, there are a number of reasons why dogs chase and chew their tails. While the most likely cause is boredom, you should not rule out the other possible causes on this list. If you are ever unsure or you think the problem is more serious, you should contact your veterinarian to get their advice.

Now read: 27 Of The Best Training Tips for Dogs

 

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