Dog Training and Dog Care advice from UK Professionals

Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tail?


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Why Does My Dog Chase its Tail? Generally a dog chases its tail simply because it is happy, excited and energetic and such behaviour is a normal component of play.

This is similar to the human behaviour of tapping fingers, or whistling. It is a release of energy, and does not always mean something is wrong, but it can do if a dog does it excessively or over-anxiously.

Some dog breeds do this far more than others, but all dogs can display this behaviour at times, though it should not be a common occurrence in most dogs.

Problems occur if the behaviour becomes obsessive with the dog chasing its tail round and round despite being distracted by the owner. This is sometimes defined as stereotypic behaviour, a term used to describe a ritualistic repetitive sequence of movements which serve no purpose. In some cases the dog will continue whirling round even if it injures itself. I don’t fully agree that it is without a purpose, as I don’t believe a dog does anything for absolutely no purpose whatsoever unless it has a medical or neurological condition of some kind. At the very least, its a release of energy or sometimes stress, and it can be purely down to playfulness of character or possibly something more sinister.

The owner may unwittingly encourage the behaviour as any attention can be interpreted by the dog as a positive reinforcer. The dog chases its tail, the owner tries to stop or distract the animal. The dog finds the attention highly rewarding and chases its tail even more.

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Another reason a dog will chase its tail is through boredom. If the dog is left alone for long periods or does not receive sufficient exercise it may chase its tail to rid itself of excess energy and this is something which can lead to more worrying problems or can even be a signal of one already present in the dog, such as separation anxiety.

In rare cases, tail chasing may be a sign of a neurological condition. Excessive tail chasing has been linked to psychomotor epilepsy.

Tail chasing is more common in certain breeds such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. This points to a possible indication that there may be a hereditary pattern or predisposition to this activity. It may also be that certain sized dogs are more prone to it because the tail is in easier reach due to the size or flexibility of the breed, or indeed the simple playful character of certain breeds.

It is not usually something to worry about unless you can’t stop it occurring by channelling the dog’s energy into something else like a toy. If in doubt you should always seek professional veterinary advice.


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