Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

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We've all seen it: the dog that runs around in circles, minute after minute, chasing and trying to catch their own tail! It brings great entertainment to us humans, but have you ever really stopped and taken the time to figure out why it is they are doing this? It looks adorable, it is incredibly entertaining, and often it's completely benign. Sometimes, though, it can be a sign that something isn't quite right with your dog, whether it be an illness or just that your dog is not getting all of its needs met.

Here are 6 reasons why a dog may chase its tail:

Fleas and other skin problems

It is possible that your dog is chasing its tail because it is being bothered by fleas. The fleas may be causing your dog to feel itchy, resulting in your dog chasing its tail to try to alleviate the itch. It's also possible that your dog has some other kind of skin condition or irritation on their tail. It makes perfect sense, but it still looks a bit silly to us!

Compulsive Disorder

Another possibility is that your dog has a compulsion disorder, which can be caused by a number of things. These kinds of compulsions can be the result of trauma and abuse, injury, or separation anxiety, just to name a few. If you recently adopted a dog from a shelter, this can be a real concern as a lot of rescued dogs have often experienced traumatic, painful pasts. If your dog is compulsively chasing its tail, it can become problematic because sometimes they will bite and chew on their tail once they finally catch it. This of course can lead to skin irritations and infections. If you believe that this might be the reason your dog is chasing its tail, it is best to make an appointment with a veterinarian.

Hereditary Tendency

Some dogs are actually predisposed to compulsive behaviors such as chasing their tails. Bull Terriers are prone to tail-chasing behavior, as well as German Shepherds, though to a lesser extent than the Bull Terrier. Though these types of dogs may have this predisposition, this doesn't necessarily mean that it is completely harmless. It could still be the result of anxiety, injury, or past trauma.

Pain and neurologic conditions

Dogs that chase their tails may do so because they feel painful at or near that location. Dogs with tails that have been docked may experience residual pain for years afterwards if the procedure was done incorrectly. Infections can also occur in the vertebra of the tail, as well as cancerous tumors. Because of these reasons, it's always a good idea to get your dog thoroughly checked by his veterinarian in cases of compulsive or chronic tail-chasing, to rule out a medical problem as the underlying cause.

Boredom

One of the less serious reasons your dog could be chasing its tail is out of boredom. If you aren't giving your dog enough attention or exercise, or if your dog doesn't have enough toys or other kinds of stimulation throughout the day, they may start chasing their tail as a way to entertain themselves. While this isn't a serious medical problem, it is still a signal that your dog's needs are not being met. One of the easiest ways to combat boredom is to make sure your dog gets enough exercise. If you are unable to take your dog for a walk and there's no way for your dog to physically exercise, mental stimulation can be helpful. Try teaching your dog some new tricks or have it practice old ones. Your dog will have to concentrate so much during this process that it may tire them out.

Attention

We almost always find it quite humorous and cute to see a dog chasing its tail. When we think our dog is doing something funny or cute, we tend to give it more attention than usual. Just like humans, when your dog is given positive attention for something it is doing, it is going to do it more often in hopes of getting that attention again.

There are a lot of possibilities for why your dog is chasing its tail. Many of them are harmless, but sometimes it could be a sign of something more serious. If you are worried about your dog or if your dog is chasing its tail more than usual or more than you would expect, you may want to contact a veterinarian just to be safe.

Written by PetCoach Editorial September 12, 2018
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