Why do dogs chase their tails?

By Josh Weiss-Roessler

Man’s best friend can provide all kinds of fun and laughter just by being a dog, but perhaps nothing is more amusing than when your pup suddenly starts to obsess over her own tail and begins spinning around in circles, trying vainly to catch it.

This is a sight that can incite laughter in even the most serious of people, but why exactly does it happen? Can it develop into something more serious? Why do dogs chase their tails so suddenly and obsessively?

Here are a few reasons dogs chase their tails.

Boredom
Oftentimes, dogs will chase their tails because they are a bit bored; it’s a way for them to have fun and expend some energy. This is especially true for puppies, who may not even realize that their tail is actually a part of their body, but see it as a toy. Generally, as dogs age, this kind of play dies down.

Attention
Do you tend to watch and laugh when your dog starts chasing his tail? If he is receiving positive attention from you by engaging in the act, it may cause him to do it whenever he wants you to take notice and play with him.

Something’s wrong
If you notice your dog really going after her tail a lot and trying to nip at it and chew on it, you may want to schedule a trip to the vet. Sometimes dogs will chase their tails because they are being bothered by worms or fleas or experiencing some other kind of medical issue.

Genetics
For reasons that we still don’t really understand, breeds like German shepherds and terriers tend to engage in tail-chasing more than other breeds — even as they grow older. This happens even more when dogs have been trapped indoors for too long.

Compulsion
Some dogs may develop a compulsive disorder that involves chasing their tail. These kinds of behavioral problems can come about for many reasons — confinement, physical abuse, past injury or trauma, separation anxiety, and so on — and need to be addressed.

If your dog is compulsively chasing his tail, he can cause serious damage by biting and chewing on it when he finally does catch it. Dogs have been known to experience hair loss on their tails due to this kind of behavior and even cause themselves injury.

What it boils down to is if you notice that your dog seems to be chasing after her tail an excessive amount, the best thing you can do for her health is to have her checked out by a veterinarian. It’s quite possible that she’s perfectly fine, but if she isn’t, the best way to diagnose the problem is with the help of a medical professional.

Does your dog display any obsessive behavior? Tell us all about it in the comments.

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