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Why Do Dogs Chase (And Bite) Their Tails?
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Do you ever look at your dog and think, “What is going on inside their head?” We are often amused by some of the actions of our pets, but these actions are not always done at random or to give us a laugh. One of these common canine actions is when a dog is determined to “get” its own tail. Well, while this sight is one that always gives us a good chuckle and is good fun for your pet, the reason your dog is chasing its tail could be for a good cause or underlying concern.
If you notice that your dog’s tail-chasing becomes an obsession, or is repeated at an abnormal rate, then this is a sign of compulsive behavior. Compulsive behaviors tend to evolve over time, which may cause more harm to your pet if left untreated.
In this blog post, we will address how to identify issues that may be causing your dog to chase and bite their tail, so you can understand exactly what to do when this happens.
- 4 Reasons Your Dog Is Chasing Their Tail
- Why Do Dogs Bite Their Tails?
- How To Identify Compulsive Behaviors in Your Dog
- When Chasing Their Tail Becomes Too Much
4 Reasons Your Dog Is Chasing Their Tail
Dogs constantly amuse us with their playful antics, which some of them can even be entertainment for us. One of the more classic (and quite frankly, amusing) canine routines features a dog running in tight circles in what seems to be an endless pursuit of their own tail. As adorable or questionable as the act may be, there are several unexpected reasons that could be causing your dog to chase their tail.
Young pups love to play and learn all about their new surroundings, and even their own bodies. When a tiny puppy is caught chasing their tail, it’s hard to resist not smiling or snapping a quick photo. Though, as puppies become more aware of their surroundings, they also are becoming aware of your reactions and responses to their behavior.
If your dog continuously is chasing their tail, one of the reasons could be that they know you enjoy the act because of the positive reinforcement they receive.1 So subconsciously, dogs learn to behave in ways that result in positive reinforcement like extra treats or pets. To avoid encouraging this behavior, distract your dog with a toy or act of play so they do not chase their tail to get a reaction out of you.
Presence of intestinal parasites
Don’t be completely alarmed, but one potential reason that your dog may be chasing their tail is due to parasites. If you notice that your dog is also scooting their behind, and experiencing diarrhea on top of their tail-chasing, then it would be worth a visit to the veterinarian to check for tapeworms or other common parasites.
As with anyone, being left alone for a long period of time can lead to feelings of boredom. To be in their best physical and mental shape, dogs are at their best when they have lots of physical activity. If they are feeling bored, they might start to consider that their tail is a new toy. To work off some of their boredom and need for exercise, dogs may begin to chase their tails and run endlessly in circles.1 Since this behavior can become obsessive, dog owners should engage more with their dogs by taking them on walks or playing fetch.
Feelings of stress
What is your typical reaction when you are feeling stressed or anxious? Some of us pick at our nails or twirl our hair. The trick to calming our dogs down might not be too far off from how we calm our own nerves. Think of it as a self-soothing technique. Your furry friend may be chasing their tail as a way to calm their nerves or feelings of anxiety. If you know that you will be away for quite some time, or that your pet is in a new environment that may trigger feelings of stress or anxiety, try to provide comfort with some friendly pets or extra snuggles.
Why Do Dogs Bite Their Tails?
There are times when your dog chews on its tail and it could be totally harmless, but there are times when the tail chewing (or other body parts) can be something to worry about. As it could vary by dog, these are the common reasons why dogs tend to chew on their tails:
- Discomfort. Dogs will chew at the area that is bothering them to get temporary relief.
- Fleas. Fleas are tiny insects that latch onto dogs and cause itchy discomfort.2
- Anxiety. Your dog might be licking or chewing their tail if they are experiencing feelings of anxiety.2
- Allergies. Like humans, dogs can be allergic to food. Your dog might be chewing their tail to ease any itching sensation caused by an allergic reaction.
How To Identify Compulsive Behaviors in Your Dog
As the saying goes, a dog is a man’s best friend, and our canine companions have similar tendencies to humans in some ways, too. Dogs, like humans, can suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Though, what the obsession looks like is not a complete mirror to what humans experience.
For example, a dog may excessively chew at their tail if they are feeling anxious, or spin in circles when they are excited to get a treat or when they see a familiar face. Some dogs are also more susceptible to compulsive behaviors.3
The best way to identify the root cause of what exactly is triggering your dog’s anxiety is to pay close attention to what causes them to start chasing their tail in the first place. From there, it will be easier for you to identify the behavior that gets them riled up, and you will be able to deter them from continuing to do so. Being able to mitigate your pet’s compulsive tendencies will hopefully result in your pet’s habit becoming more playful than harmful.
When Chasing Their Tail Becomes Too Much
As entertaining as it may be for pet owners to watch their dog aimlessly spin in circles trying to get their tail, make sure to remember that there could be another reason behind the behavior. While it is not uncommon for a dog to chase their own tail from time to time, it is important for pet owners to monitor how often this habit is happening. If you notice that your dog is continuing their tail-chasing pattern, or showing signs of discomfort, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a veterinarian.That’s where Dutch comes into play. With Dutch, we offer telemedicine for pets in a simple way. You can contact a licensed veterinarian right from the comfort of your own home and get the necessary prescription and advice to treat and protect your dog’s overall health, right to your door.
“Fluffy Can't Stop Chasing His Tail.” American Veterinary Medical Association, https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2008-06-01/fluffy-cant-stop-chasing-his-tail.
Michelson Found Animals Foundation. “Why Does My Dog Do That?” Michelson Found Animals Foundation, https://www.foundanimals.org/common-dog-behaviors-decoded/.
“Dealing with Doggy OCD.” Ohio State Insights, https://insights.osu.edu/health/canine-compulsive-disorder.