The chances that you have seen a dog do this are enormous, but why does a dog run after its tail? Whether you’re in the park or just sitting in your living room, the chances of seeing a dog chasing its tail are quite high. Sometimes they are a few enthusiastic loops in response to a seemingly exciting event; other times it may look more like an endless cyclone as the dog chases its tail over and over until they find a new distraction.
As a dog parent, you probably have some questions about this peculiar behavior, most notably, why is your dog chasing after his tail? Is it because they are bored, burn extra energy, or is it just for fun? Can dogs make themselves dizzy by chasing their tail? Stop wondering! We dive into four common reasons why your dog is so fascinated by its tail.
Why is your dog chasing their tail? They are likely to lack mental stimulation, seek attention, or simply try to burn off excess energy. That’s the case with many dogs – especially younger dogs and puppies. These dogs often enjoy running in circles! In fact, for puppies who may not yet recognize their tail as part of their body, it can be a source of pleasure. They see a fuzzy object in their periphery and assume it is another animal worth chasing. Running in circles doesn’t seem to make dogs dizzy in the same way that humans do, so they can keep going for a while.
2. A medical condition
If your dog occasionally chases his tail, it is perfectly normal. However, if this behavior is constant, it can signal a more serious problem. Veterinarian WH Droeger said in an interview for the Dutch kennel club: “Obsessive chasing can be due to a brain defect that resembles an attack-like activity. Other reasons can be a painful area where a tail was docked, an infection, or even cancer.
Some experts believe that chasing a tail can even signal mental illness in dogs. Obsessive tail chasing is considered a symptom of compulsive disorder in dogs. If left unchecked, this behavior can become self-destructive, causing dogs to damage their tails. If you think your dog is obsessively chasing his tail, see your vet.
According to research published by the Journal of Small Animal Practice, there may be a link between compulsive tail hunting and high blood and cholesterol levels. Researchers found that the 15 dogs they chased they observed had significantly higher levels of total cholesterol and both high and low density lipoprotein cholesterol than the control dogs. More research needs to be done on the genetic link, but this was nevertheless an interesting finding.
Keep in mind that there are a myriad of reasons your dog is after its tail. If you go out together for enough exercise and playtime together, but you still notice this behavior, you may want to keep an eye on it. If you observe your dog chasing his tail obsessively and nonstop, you may want to go to the vet to make sure nothing is wrong.
A dog with an itchy tail from parasites such as fleas or ticks is more likely to “chase” its tail in an attempt to chew the itchy area. While dogs sit up earlier and try to twist their body in a way to get to the itchy spot, they may initially try to chase their tail. If you notice your dog trying to chew his tail, check for signs of parasites and contact your vet for an expert to see him.
Is it more common in certain breeds?
According to this article published at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there is evidence that breeds such as German Shepherds, Bull Terriers, and Anatolian Sheepdogs are more likely to chase their tails. There is also some evidence that it is common in terrier breeds such as the West Highland white terrier and Jack Russell terriers, but there is currently not enough statistical data to confirm.
Discourage this behavior
While chasing their tail seems harmless and can provide great entertainment for you and your dog, it’s also important to follow this behavior. If not for the conditions listed above, there is a risk that they will actually catch their tail – especially in younger dogs that are not as “tail-conscious”.
There are many small bones in a dog’s tail that can be damaged or broken if injuries occur. Additionally, if your dog sees its tail as prey, they may be prone to chewing it, which can result in a bite on their own tail. So if you find they are almost catching their tail, consider discouraging this behavior to make sure they don’t hurt themselves.