Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

We’ve all seen it. That hyperactive dog, wild-eyed, running in circles, and chasing after his own tail. It’s one of those classic canine behaviors that we can’t help to laugh at. We might assume dogs chasing their tails is all in good fun, but why do dogs chase their tails?

Can tail chasing be serious?

When a dog starts chasing its tail, most people laugh. Some might even call the dog stupid. But we rarely tend to think that something might be amiss. A little tail chasing is harmless fun, but tail chasing should never be encouraged and can be a sign of underlying problems.

Dogs chase their tails for many reasons. Dogs will pick up this behavior young (about 3-6 months). For some dogs, tail chasing is a short-lived phase. Other dogs never drop the habit. Primarily, dogs chase their tails because they are bored.

While a lot of tail chasing is just good fun, it’s important to be watchful and consider other possibilities. A medical condition might be to blame. Your dog might be trying to itch at some pesky fleas/ticks. Stress and anxiety tend to exacerbate tail chasing.

Studies indicate that breed plays a role in how often dogs will chase their tails. A study by Charlotte C. Burn, a veterinary scientist from the UK, combed through YouTube videos of dogs chasing their tails in order to discover any correlation between tail chasing and other factors. They found that Bull Terriers were the most likely to chase their tails. However, these differences in breeds could be due to environmental factors.

Most often, the problem is a lack of exercise. Dogs need routine walks and lots of play. Too little exercise and dogs will start to grow antsy and look for other forms of entertainment. One solution: tail chasing. 

When tail chasing is a problem?

Most tail chasing is an innocent dog behavior. However, tail chasing can also be a warning sign. For this reason, dog owners should always keep an eye on when a dog chases their tale, under what circumstance, and how often it happens.

Frequent tail chasing can be a sign of canine compulsive disorder, the dog form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). If your pet is chasing their tale compulsively, normal distractions like commands or treats will not work. In CCD cases, tail chasing tends to grow more frequent over time. 

Other medical conditions may be to blame, as well. Tail chasing can be from dermatitis, an inflammation of the skin, or from anal sacculitis, which is a swelling of the glands in the anal region.

If you notice your dog can’t stop chasing their tail, keep a log of when you notice this behavior and seek out a veterinarian’s care.

Training can reduce this behavior. The best way to manage tail chasing is early intervention through behavior modification. When your pet engages in tail chasing, you’ll want to redirect using other enticing things: including walks, food, or toys. Going for walk or offering toys is a great way to distract your pup, because these activities address a lack of exercise that also might be at the root of your dog’s behavior. Retraining is most effective when you know what triggers the behavior, so you can spot the trigger and redirect your dog before the tail chasing occurs.

Tyler Kupcho
Author: Tyler Kupcho

Animal lover, proud husky parent. Writing Intern at DogFriendly.com

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