Why Does Your Dog Chase His Own Tail?

This common behavior can be explained in a few reasons, according to veterinary experts.

Every dog will chase his or her own tail, running around in circles, at some point in life. For us, it looks amusing and makes us scratch our heads: Why do they do it? "The most common reason a dog will chase its tail is boredom," explains Dr. Gabrielle Fadl, DVM, veterinarian and medical director at Bond Vet. "If a dog is not stimulated through moderate daily exercise, toys, and treats, you furry friend may direct its attention to its tail out of boredom." We do something similar when we are bored and twiddle our thumbs or tap our feet. Our dogs just have excess energy.

dog biting its tail on beach
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While boredom is generally the root cause behind why dogs to chase their tails, it's not the only reason. So, if your dog has plenty of playtime and mentally engaging activities, what can you do about this behavior? Talk to your veterinarian and they can rule out some of the following reasons.

They Want Playtime

Some dogs chase their tails because they think it's fun. "This is especially true of puppies, who are still figuring out their own body parts," says Dr. Fadl. "They learn very quickly that biting their own tail is quite painful, and this will often limit chasing it." If your puppy likes to play this way, it may not be a concern unless he or she is regularly biting their tail and hurting themselves. Dr. Fadl recommends taking your dog on frequent walks or letting your dog run around in your backyard with a game of fetch. Puzzle games can also stimulate their minds and motivate them with treat rewards. Cognitive training games make your dog smarter but also keep them occupied and reduce the potential for boredom.

Injury to the Tail

Another reason for this behavior could be that the dog's tail is injured or otherwise sore. "It is common for dogs to favor, lick, or groom sites of injury. If your dog is chasing its tail more often than usual, consider a visit to the vet to rule-out any lumps, bumps, and scratches on your doggy's tail," says Dr. Fidl. An examination may be in order and treatment will depend on the extent of the injury.

Compulsion, Stress, and Anxiety

Does your dog seem to chase his or her tail more often when you leave the house? Separation anxiety is common for many pets. "Some dogs develop compulsive behaviors as a way to cope with stress, fear or anxiety," she says. "If your dog is constantly chasing its tail, consider a visit to the vet to discuss remedies for anxiety or stress." The compulsion could end once the underlying emotional and psychological triggers are managed with proper care.

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions could also be the reason behind your dog's tail-chasing. "Some dogs chase their tails as a result of an underlying neurologic issues. It can also be indicative of pain. If you suspect that your dog might be in pain, book an appointment with your local veterinarian as soon as possible," Dr. Fidl says. So, pay attention to your dog's behavior and always consult a professional.

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