Tails are fun, they wag, they attract a dog's attention and they are tough to catch. If you have raised a puppy at some point or another you would have noticed that the puppy became interested in it. It just seems to happen one morning out of the blue when the pup will suddenly notice he has grown a tail and that it weirdly moves at times.
Enticed, he will try to catch it making owners and children laugh and giggle at their ineffective efforts. Should you own more than one dog, then the fun doubles, each playing with its other tail.
However, there are times when a dog chasing tail is not fun at all. I will never forget one day at a dog park when I saw a dog chasing its tail. It was not the simple tail chasing that amazed me, but the fact that he was so obsessed with it that he cared less of the other dogs playing around him and all the hustle ad bustle of a dog park. The owner called him at one point, he walked towards the owner but shortly went back to his odd behavior.
Later working as a veterinarian assistant, I came to realize that this was more than just a personality quirk. Rather, it was an obsessive compulsive behavior in dogs that was pretty difficult to get rid of. Some dogs required behavior specialists and even anti-anxiety pills.
So why do dogs chase their tails?
Well, there are various reasons, here are a few:
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- Dogs chase their tail as a form of play. They will play with their tails for a little bit but then they will forget about it and resume normal habits.
- Dogs chase their tails to keep themselves entertained. These are dogs that may be a bit bored, they may chase the tail a bit and then go back to other normal activities such as eating, drinking, etc. However, they may go back to tail chasing should there be no other stimulus going on in their lives.
- Dogs chase their tails because there is something physical going on. Like an anal itch due to tapeworms or pain due to full anal glands. Other causes may be allergies, or fleas biting near the rear area.
- Dog may chase their tails because their owners find it funny and the dog therefore, feels rewarded for doing so and will continue just to get all the attention and commotion.
- Dogs may chase their tails because they are stressed, anxious or lack enough stimulus in their life. This is the most challenging form to get rid. This form of tail chasing may have started as a game but then progressed to an obsessive compulsive disorder. In this case, these dogs are so fixated on their tail that other normal activities such as playing, paying attention to noises, smells or other people or dogs are completely ignored. This was the case of the dog in the dog park I had witnessed as mentioned above.
Should your dog show an increased interest in their tail that goes beyond normal play, have your dog checked by the vet. It is best to rule out anything physical going on and then consider behavioral issues.
Here are some tips to wean off a dog from tail chasing:
- Never laugh or praise a dog that is chasing their tail. The attention obtained this way will only cause your dog to look for more, resulting of course, in more tail chasing.
- Ignore a dog that is tail chasing. Rather once the behavior starts ignore or leave the room. The dog needs to understand that tail chasing will not only not bring any atention, but it will also cause the person to leave.
- Provide some mind challenging games such as stuffing a Kong and letting him try to get the treats outs or hiding treats around the house and allowing him to look for them.
- If your dog upgrades to tail biting, rule out allergies or other medical causes and then try to apply some bitter apple on the tail area. The bitter, unpleasant taste acts will act as a deterrent and hopefully discourage the biting. Avoid bitter apple if there are open sores.
- Exercise your dog more. He may need more stimulus and a way to get out the excess energy. Let him run besides you, play Frisbee, or walk a few miles a day. You should have a relaxed tired dog at the end of the day.
- Consult with a veterinarian. You dog may need medications that may help ease some of the anxiety.
- Consult with a dog behaviorist. Most cases, work best if a mix of all the above advice is implemented.
So as we have seen tail chasing may range from an innocent game of keeping a bored mind entertained, to a full blown case of obsessive compulsive disorder. Never encourage your dog to chase its tail, it may turn out not being fun anymore as the dog starts doing it all the time. Some dogs progress so much in their tail chasing and tail biting habits that the ultimate resort is having their tails amputated.
*Disclaimer: All remedies suggested are not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your pet is sick please refer to your veterinarian for a hands on examination. If your pet is exhibiting behavior problems please refer to a professional pet behaviorist.