One day, I noticed that a seemingly unreachable prize had caught my dog’s eye, and he was in hot pursuit. Spinning in endless circles, my dog’s tail was the Jerry to his Tom, and his inability to get a hold of it had me giggling as I watched this performance. After a few more minutes of failed attempts, my puppy collapsed in defeat, panting. In the coming weeks, my puppy became a regular in the tail-chasing competition held in our living room, and I was left puzzled. Why do dogs chase their tail? It turns out, there are a number of reasons that dogs may be engaging in this behavior.
Puppies are constant investigators, sniffing and chewing the world around them. If you notice that your dog is chasing their tail, your pup may just be playing and entertaining themselves. While this can be a harmless play tactic, if you notice that your dog is engaging in frequent tail-chasing behavior and you are concerned, I have found that introducing other, more stimulating activities and games can deter this behavior and result in a happy (and tired!) pup.
Dogs are very intelligent animals and need consistent stimulation and attention in order to maintain a healthy and happy life. Many of us who adopt puppies are also working jobs, often full-time, and thus only have a few hours left in the day to tend to the needs of our beloved pups. However, if you notice that your dog is increasingly chasing their tail, and you have not been available to give as much attention, you may want to consider increasing playtime each day, with activities like throwing a ball, a tug-of-war with a rope, or using treats to teach new tricks.
Unfortunately, dogs can experience extreme anxiety, which may manifest in a variety of behaviors that serve as self-soothing tactics. If you notice that your dog is nervous in certain situations, such as when there are loud fireworks in your neighborhood or when your pup is confined in tight spaces, you may see your dog use chasing their tail as a way to relieve this stress. There are a variety of options to try to relieve your dog’s anxiety, and you should consult your veterinarian to determine the best path forward.
If you notice your dog is chasing their tail a lot, there may be an underlying health issue. When a dog is suffering from a flea infestation, their tail can become very itchy, and biting may present a bit of relief for the animal. If your dog is suddenly chasing their tail repeatedly, you may want to inspect them for fleas or bring them to their veterinarian for an examination. Fleas are not the only concerning reason behind a dog’s interest in their tail, though. In an article on PetMD’s website, Dr. Stephanie Liff, DVM and Medical Director of Pure Paws Vet Care in New York City, shared that dogs can suffer from canine compulsive disorder (CCD), which can cause them to obsessively chase their tails. Dr. Liff said that typically dogs with CCD also exhibit other signs, such as “high anxiety and hypervigilance.” If your dog is chasing their tail frequently, for extended periods of time, you may want to contact your veterinarian.
While I am pleased that my pup seems to have discovered this new skill as a means of play, it is important to be aware of all of the potential reasons behind this behavior.