Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

  • By: Mick Whitefield
  • Time to read: 7 min.

 Why do dogs chase their tails? Dogs can chase their tails for several reasons. Some do it because of boredom creating some fun. Other dogs do it for attention. Occasionally it can be a nervous disorder or alternatively an OCD habit or they may even have a flea infestation. It may be that they need exercise. Whatever the reason, watching your dog chase its tail can be hilarious to watch. This endearing act only adds to the charm of our lovable canines. Careful though, it isn’t always a laughing matter when your dog chases its tail, there can be a medical reason driving their behavior that may need veterinary attention. 

Possible Reasons Dogs Chase Their Tails: –

  • Creating fun because of boredom
  • A lack of proper exercise
  • Attracting attention
  • A Medical Injury
  • A Flea Infestation
  • Age Related
  • A Nervous Disorder or OCD Habit

In this post, we will talk in-depth about some of the reasons why dogs chase their tails. We will expand on some of the reasons for this phenomenon to help settle your mind and work out what you need to do. Hopefully after reading this you will know whether your dog is being playful or if there is a possibility that there is something medically wrong.

Chasing Tails 1

Most of the time, tail chasing is not a problem and is often something that your dog rarely does. Essentially there may be a problem if your dog is constantly doing this, say several times a day. If this does become a problem, you as a responsible owner need to be able to recognize the identifying signs to know that you need to ask for help from your vet.

We have written this short guide to help you. So that you can tell what to look out for in case there really is something wrong with your dog. So, keep in mind how often and for how long your dog is doing this and keep reading to help you find out why your dog may be chasing its tail!

Is Your Dog Chasing its Tail to be Playful due to Boredom?

In many many cases tail chasing is usually the result of a simple explanation – having fun, this may simply be a case of boredom. Any dog gets bored when they are left alone for hours on end, particularly if they have no toys or chews to help occupy them.

Maybe you are out at work all day or simply running errands. Your dog can get fed up with their own company if left alone for large chunks of the day with no one or no other animal to spend time with, then it is reasonable and quite possible that tail chasing may occur.

Chasing Tails 2

When your dog is not being played with, or not given enough attention, they will often resort to their own forms of amusement. This self-applied act against boredom may simply be the destructive act of chewing the furniture, or it may be chasing their tail.

Is Your Dog Getting Enough Exercise?

It may seem silly to you, but your dog could be chasing their tail simply to get the physical activity that they are missing out on. Whilst possibly also linked to boredom, many dogs that do not get enough exercise will find something to burn off their energy. Did you walk your dog before you abandoned them for the day, to be on their own?

If your dog is not able to exercise often and release their energy they may well chase their tail more. Tail chasing, in this case, is a symptom from the lack of physical activity. If you want to stop your dog from chasing their tail, all you need to do is play with your dog more, walk it more or engage them in some kind of physical activity.

Try to make time within your day to engage with your pet on a physical level. Maybe take them out on more walks, if you are already walking them then allow them to run some while you are out. Get to an open space where you can throw a ball and play fetch, this is a great fun exercise for many dogs.

American Hairless Terrier 1

If you physically can’t get out, then spend time throwing them toys indoors or playing tug-of-war with a rope. If you really can’t find more time in your day, give your dog something interesting like a toy to play with, there are some great toys in which a treat can be hidden inside, this can be a great solution for those inquisitive dogs and also stimulates them mentally.

For many having a dog is like having a child and just like a child, you must spend time with them, playing and educating them. 

Is Your Dog Chasing Their Tail Because They Want Your Attention?

In some cases, dogs do this purely for attention. They get enough exercise, but they want their owners to play with them more. Some pet owners laugh or make a fuss of their dog when they chase their tail. You have given attention to your dog and they think it’s good for them to chase their tail. This is a form of positive reinforcement which will signal to your dog that this is something worth doing.

This is learnt behavior, which is then reinforced by your praise. In short, your pet learns that you will give them attention whenever they chase their tail.

The opposite of this can be true as well. A dog can get scolded by their owner for tail chasing and learn to associate the act with gaining attention. Thus they learn to start chasing their tail to get you to look at them, even if you get mad at them, so then they keep doing it because it brings your attention to them, once again just like a child.

Dog In A Swing
Dogs are often like children

Dogs are very similar to children, when they get bored, they will try to attract your attention because it feels good. To prevent this from continuing, the best thing you can do is ignore your dog when they chase their tail. This way they will stop associating the act of attention with the act of tail chasing.

Does Tail-Chasing Have Medical Implications?

Your dog could be suffering from a health issue if they are continuously chasing their tail. And if they start a habit of running after their tail out of nowhere you might want to consult a medical expert. Tail biting should also be looked at.

One reason your dog might be chasing its tail is due to injury. Dogs tend to pick at scabs and open wounds. Alternatively, your dog could have allergies and the skin is irritated. Take a close look at your dogs’ tail for any problems. Is it overly sensitive? Does it have scabs or bites or is it red and raw? If it is a vet can prescribe medication and help with these health issues.

Another reason for physically checking your dogs tail is that there may be a simple answer that may cause further problems seemingly not related to tail chasing. When looking at other common medical causes of tail biting, chasing parasites might be the answer.

Flea Bites
The Tail is a common place for Parasites

Fleas can hide in your dog’s tail and cause them to chase it, this area can be a common problem area for fleas. Again, you’ll want to see a vet if your dog continues to bite themselves. And even if our dog does not have fleas, they could have something more serious going on. Only a trained vet will know what is wrong with your pet. So, get them checked out.

Does Chasing Their Tail Have Anything To Do With Your Dog’s Age?

Tail chasing can happen for entirely different reasons. Some dogs do chase their tails or chew on them because of their age. Young dogs, in particular, are unfamiliar with their own bodies and chasing their tail can simply be gaining an awareness of their own body. They might not even know that their tail belongs to them until they catch it or bite it, so they chase or chew on it.

The same situation can occur with older dogs. As animals age, their mental capacity decreases. Dogs become less and less aware as they get older. Aging dogs might start chewing on their tails without really knowing what they are doing. In this case, you might want to see a vet. Your dog could be developing a cognitive issue that needs to be remedied by medication.

Does My Dog Have a Mental Disorder?

Dogs are not immune to psychological disorders. Like their human counterparts, some dogs can develop OCD. Humans tend to get obsessed with hand washing, door closing, and other inane daily tasks. In animals, this can manifest in an obsession with their tail. The development of this tail-chasing obsession in dogs can usually be traced to anxiety.

Chasing Tails3

Dogs can experience separation anxiety from their owners. Another source of anxiety could be coming from an external source though. They could be nervous when new people come in the house, or when animals outside bark. Maybe it has nothing to do with anxiety. Perhaps they just got in the habit of chewing their tail. Tail chewing can be soothing to dogs who are injured. And they may continue doing it after they have healed.

OCD in dogs can be a serious condition. Luckily though, veterinarians and dog behaviorists are trained to recognize these conditions and help your pet. Medication and/or behavioral adjustment can help your dog to stop chasing their tail and biting it.

Conclusion To Why Dogs Chase their Tails

Tail chasing can be an amusing situation, or it can be a concerning issue depending on the typical habits of your dog. If you have inspected your dogs’ tail and found no signs of a physical problem and yet your dog constantly continues to chase its tail for extended periods of time, it might be best to take them to a vet or an animal behaviorist. As cute an act as tail chasing can be to some pet owners, it can have some serious health implications for your dog in the long term.


-VCS Hospitals


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