If you’ve ever seen your dog spinning in circles trying to catch their tail, you’ve probably wondered what was going on in their head.
So why do dogs chase their tails?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one simple answer to this question. Dogs might be chasing their tails for several different reasons. And while many are harmless, it’s best to know what behaviours to watch out for if your dog is excessively chasing their tail.
Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?
From normal puppy play to medical and mental conditions, here are five of the reasons your dog might be chasing their tail.
Sometimes when a dog chases their tail, it’s simply a way to play, explore, and amuse themselves.
Puppies especially are still learning about their bodies, so they may be chasing their tail as a means of exploring their surroundings and anatomy.
Chasing their tail is an extremely common and normal behaviour among playful puppies, who may see their tail as a toy to chase after, and they will most likely outgrow this behaviour.
Tail chasing may also be a sign that your dog isn’t getting enough mental stimulation or physical activity.
If a dog is left alone for long periods, it’s easy for them to grow bored and see chasing their tail as a fun way to expend energy and keep themselves entertained.
If your dog is left alone for most of the day or doesn’t get enough walks or activity every day, they might be seeking enjoyment out of tail chasing.
If your dog feels they aren’t getting enough attention from you, they may try chasing their tail to elicit a reaction and gain attention.
If your dog receives laughs and attention from tail chasing, it can become a reward-seeking behaviour, and they are more likely to continue.
If you’re noticing excessive or constant tail-chasing from your dog, it may be a sign of one of many medical conditions.
Fleas, ticks, and other parasites can make a dog’s back end or tail feel itchy, resulting in them chasing and trying to chew on their tail to relieve discomfort. If you notice excessive chewing on their tail, it may be a sign to check your pet for an infestation.
Nipping or chewing on their tail may also indicate general pain or itchiness from an allergic reaction.
Tail chasing may also be a symptom of neurological problems, seizures, or infection.
If you notice changes in your dog’s tail-chasing behaviour, it’s best to get them checked out by a vet to rule out any significant medical conditions.
Compulsive or Anxious Behavior
Tail chasing can also be a sign of underlying mental conditions in your dog.
Going after their tail is a common compulsive behaviour in dogs and can even be a sign of Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD). While CCD manifests in various ways, repetitive and constant tail-chasing is extremely common in many dogs with compulsive disorders.
In the same way, humans chew their nails, dogs have nervous habits such as chasing and chewing on their tails when they’re feeling stressed or anxious.
Repetitive behaviours like chasing their tail can be soothing for a nervous dog and may help calm them in anxiety-inducing situations.
Suppose your dog chases their tail more under certain circumstances, such as during thunderstorms, visitors at the door, or being left alone. In that case, it may be a sign that your dog is feeling particularly anxious.
Should You Be Worried About Your Dog Chasing Their Tail?
A lot of the time, dogs chasing their tails should be nothing to worry about.
If your dog is young and playful, it’s completely normal behaviour as your dog learns to explore and amuse themselves.
However, it’s always important to pay attention to your dog’s behaviour. If your dog is always left home alone or is not receiving the necessary amount of mental and physical activity, chasing its tail might be a sign of boredom and lack of stimulation.
Luckily, you can easily fix this behaviour by upping the number of walks or games of fetch in a day. If you have to leave your dog home alone, mental puzzles can help provide additional mental stimulation while you’re gone.
If your dog is excessively chasing and chewing its tail, or you notice an increase in this behaviour, it’s always a good idea to get them checked out by a vet, as it may be a sign of a medical or mental condition.
While tail chasing can be harmless, your vet can help you find the root of the problem and deal with any potential medical conditions that may be causing your dog discomfort.
Should You Stop Your Dog From Chasing Their Tail?
If your dog chases their tail occasionally, there’s usually nothing to worry about. However, dogs chasing their tail can lead to behavioural and physical issues that you should watch out for.
Dogs may be chasing their tail for attention, which can turn into reward-seeking behaviour.
If you laugh or show your dog excitement when they’re chasing their tail, this behaviour is likely to continue whenever they feel as though they’re not getting enough attention from you.
Ignoring this behaviour and not giving them the response they’re looking for can help prevent them from becoming conditioned.
If your dog is constantly spinning in circles or bites or chews on its tail, it’s critical to put a stop to this habit before they injure themselves.
If training them to stop chasing their tail doesn’t work, you should bring them to a vet to find out if there are any underlying health conditions or compulsive behaviour.
The Bottom Line
There isn’t one easy answer as to why your dog is chasing their tail.
You may be dealing with a new puppy exploring their surroundings, a bored or attention-seeking dog in need of more activity, or a range of medical conditions or compulsive disorders that might be causing your dog stress.
Whatever the reason is, it’s best to pay attention to your dog’s behaviour to notice any excessive tail-chasing, chewing, or feelings of discomfort.
While chasing their tail can simply be a way for dogs to entertain themselves, it’s always better to be safe and get them looked at by a vet if you’re unsure.
Whether they’re trying to calm themselves from anxiety or just having fun, make sure to keep an eye on your dog if they continuously chase their tail.