Why do dogs chase their tails?

April 13, 2012

Tail chasing, also known as whirling, can be funny or even troublesome to the viewer, depending on the age of the dog and whether the dog chases its tail to excess. Tail chasing is a natural behavior that is common among the young of predators. Unlike prey species, predators can spend time playing because they do not have to worry that another animal will try to eat them while they are playing.

It is a common behavior for puppies and dogs to chase their tail. It is normal for puppies to chase their tails when they are very young. Some puppies, when in a new home without their littermates, will chase their tail around because there is not a puppy with which it can play. Some observers comment that it is as though the puppy does not know that its tail is attached to itself as it chases its tail around.

It is not so normal when adult dogs chase their tail. For an adult dog, there can be several causes of the tail chasing episodes. The cause for the tail chasing could be physical, neurological, behavioral or a combination of these causes.

Physical causes for tail chasing include fleas, worms or irritated anal sacs. Another cause could be psychomotor epilepsy or other seizure condition. There are also neurological causes for tail chasing associated with the balance of dopamine in the dog’s body.

When a dog chases its tail to excess for no apparent reason, it is considered a dog compulsive disorder. Some dogs will chase their tail and even chew at themselves. It is thought that 2% of the dog population has a dog compulsive disorder.

Causes for tail chasing without a reason include too much confinement or restriction of the dog’s behavior. In some extreme cases, a dog will chase its tail until it is exhausted, sleep a short time to get up and chase its tail again.

Tail chasing may also be done by dogs that are normal without any physical, neurological or behavioral problems. Tail chasing is prevalent in some lines of terrier breeds, although all breeds of dogs will chase their tails.

Puppies will quit chasing their tail, as they get older. If your adult dog is chasing its tail, it is important that you understand why it is happening. It could be a signal that there is a problem.

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