Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

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Terrier Chasing its Tail (Caption: Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?)

Our dogs can act weird on occasion. One thing that makes them unique is when they chase their tail in circles—spinning in a circle like a tornado.

But why do dogs chase their tails? The answer is part scientific and hereditary, and each dog might have a different reason he will do the behavior. Let’s find out why a dog chasing tail is so fascinating and if it should be a concern.

Why Do Dogs Have Tails?

Before we try to understand why they chase their tails, let’s examine why dogs have tails in the first place.

  • Balance – One of the most important uses of a tail is to give dogs balance. A dog can use his tail as a sort of rudder when swimming. Like a tightrope walker, a dog adjusts his tail to better change direction or for general balance.
  • Conveying Emotion – Dogs’ tails show other dogs and us what they are feeling. A tail wag shows excitement or that the dog is happy to see you. A stiff tail demonstrates that the dog is tense, senses danger, or is a sign of aggression. A tail between the legs shows that the dog is fearful.
  • Spreading Scent – Have you ever gone on a walk and noticed your dog begin to pull harder because he smells something in the air? There’s a good chance a dog walked that same path not too long before your walk. Tails help secrete liquid from the anal glands to spread their scent. A dog that holds its tail high might be doing so to release more aromas for other dogs to pick up on.

Why Dogs Chase Their Tails?

Now that we understand a little more about our dogs’ tails, we can begin to understand the answer to “why does my dog chase his tail?”

  • Canine CD (Compulsive Disorder) or CCD – There could be a psychological reason your dog is chasing his tail. Canines are sometimes predisposed to the inability to concentrate. If your dog is constantly licking his lips, barking, or chasing anything that moves, he could have a Canine Compulsive Disorder.
  • Boredom – Sometimes, there isn’t a real answer to, “What does it mean when a dog chases his tail?”. They might chase it for pure enjoyment.
  • Diet – Dogs that have shown high cholesterol levels have more sudden changes in mood or behavior and are more likely to chase their tails.
  • Irritation – Dogs can chase their tails if they have an itch from fleas, ticks, or bowel irritation.
  • Predatory Instinct – Dogs’ predatory nature sometimes forces them to “chase” anything that moves and catches their eye.

Why Do Puppies Chase Their Tails?

Puppies chase their tails for the same reasons dogs do and as a form of exploration. Puppies are learning and discovering many things daily, and so when they see their tail’s shadow, they may think it’s a toy, so chasing it is instinctual. Puppies chasing their tails and catching them can help them learn how big they are and distinguish themselves from toys.

How To Stop Your Dog From Chasing His Tail

If you are concerned about your dog’s tendency to chase his tail, there are some things you can do to curb that behavior.

  • Exercise – A tired dog is more likely to have a tired mind, which would prevent spontaneous acts like tail-chasing. Interaction with other dogs is another way to stimulate your dog and may decrease the likelihood of him chasing his tail.
  • Medication – There are some medications that your vet can prescribe to your dog to help ease his mind and make him less likely to chase his tail.

Below, see a video from Dr. David Randall, who explains why a dog chases its tail and how to curb that behavior.

Tale Of The Tail

In general, dogs chasing their tails should not be of concern. Dogs are all unique and have different, strange, and odd reasons for things they do. If you think your dog has a real problem, you can talk to your vet about it and see if there’s a solution. If you want to give your dog a distraction to chase and play with, check out some of these dog toys.

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