Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

Puppies are hilarious to watch.

They often appear to be little more than moving balls of fur with eyes. Their legs are wobbly, their feet are too big, and they can’t always judge distance well. And then there’s the tail. What is that thing she sees out of the corner of her eye? And why is it no matter how hard she goes after it, it eludes her?

Tail-chasing, or whirling, is a common activity for puppies. Sometimes it’s the result of curiosity: the puppy doesn’t yet realize the tail is part of her own body. Sometimes puppies whirl from excess energy or boredom. Tail-chasing is a natural activity for puppies and not a cause for alarm: in most cases, the pup will grow out of it.

Whirling in an adult dog needs to be observed more closely. Some breeds, especially German Shepherds and some breeds of bull terriers are know for chasing their tails and it seems to be hard-wired into their genetic code to some extent.

But when an adult dog engages in whirling, especially if he or she starts doing so in adulthood, you need to check for other causes.

Boredom or Lack of Activity

Some dogs chase their tails because they have nothing else to do. Others are dogs that crave more physical activity than they’re getting. Make sure your dog has lots of toys to play with when you aren’t around. Also make sure she gets the amount of exercise she requires. That can vary from breed to breed and dog to dog, so do your homework. Give her a bigger area to run in when you aren’t at home. Or, if that’s not possible, increase the number or distance (or both) of her daily walks.

Desire for Your Attention

Your dog is very attuned to you. The highlight of her day is hearing your voice, feeling your touch, and spending time with you. If she notices that you laugh and pay attention when she chases her tail, she’ll whirl all the more just to get your attention. Dogs learn very quickly how to train their humans. Ignore her when she chases her tail. If she’s trying to get your attention that way, she’ll quickly drop that behavior for one that gets her the results she’s after.

Injuries, Parasites, or Irritations

Your dog may be trying to get at a flea, mite or tick that’s irritating her tail or bottom area. She may have injured her tail somehow. Or she may have impacted or infected anal glands. It can be hard to tell if she’s chasing her tail or trying to get to the base of her tail. Check the length of her tail carefully from all sides and see if you can find anything that might be irritating or annoying her.

Chemical Imbalances

Some studies indicate that chemical imbalances can lead to compulsive disorders in dogs, such as tail chasing. If you don’t find an obvious reason for your adult dog’s whirling, have your vet check it out.

Epileptic Disorders

Whirling can be a sign of a form of epilepsy. Although this is rare, you still should have your vet rule that out as a cause. In most cases, and for most dogs, tail chasing is nothing to be concerned about, especially in younger dogs. Which is a good thing—because it sure is fun to watch!

Meet the Author: Pam Hair

Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.

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