Although the phrase “like a dog chasing its tail” is meant to refer to an activity that is pointless, seeing a dog chase their tail can be hilarious and a fun time for both you and your dog. Most of the time, a dog chasing their tail is normal behavior. But, it can also sometimes be an indication of anxiety or underlying health issues. So, why do dogs chase their tails? Here are a few reasons:
1. Your Dog Might Be Bored
If your dog is bored or hasn’t received enough exercise, they may chase their tail. In this case, spinning in circles and chasing their tail is something to do, it tends to be fun for them, and also allows them to get rid of some of that extra energy. This is also why tail-chasing tends to happen more often when a dog has been stuck inside for a long time. Tail-chasing is especially prominent in puppies as they may view their tail as another toy instead of just a part of their body.
Most dog breeds tend to outgrow this behavior, so tail-chasing tends to slow down as they age. But, there do seem to be some dog breeds that are more prone to chase their tails even as they get older. Terriers, German Shepherds, and others tend to chase their tails more than other breeds even as adult dogs. At the same time, these breeds also tend to be high-energy and easily bored. So, it could also be that tail-chasing occurs more often in these breeds because they tend to get bored and restless more often than a lower energy dog breed.
2. Your Dog May Like the Extra Attention
In general, dogs tend to increase behavior that gets them a reward and gets them what they what. This could be anything from treats, toys, playtime, or even just laughter and attention from you. A dog chasing its tail can be entertaining and hard to ignore.
So, if you often watch your dog when they chase their tail and laugh, they’re receiving positive attention from you for doing it. In addition to being fun for them, tail-chasing may also become a way for your dog to get attention from you and to encourage you to play with them.
3. Tail-Chasing Could Also be a Sign That Something is Wrong
Most of the time, tail-chasing is normal behavior that is a fun activity for your dog. But, sometimes it can also be a sign that something is wrong. When a dog is frequently going after their tail, trying to nip at it or chew on it, it could be a sign of underlying health issues. Dogs suffering from fleas, worms, or other medical issues will sometimes chase their tails and try to bite or chew it in an attempt to relieve pain or discomfort.
Tail-chasing can also become a compulsive behavior as a result of anxiety. Sometimes dogs who have experienced confinement, abuse, or past trauma develop excessive tail-chasing or chewing as a behavioral response to anxiety. It can also be a common behavioral problem in dogs with separation anxiety as well. In any of these cases, it’s important to visit the vet for a checkup.
You know your dog and what their normal behavior is like. So, if their tail-chasing is playful and happy as usual, then you don’t need to worry. It could also be a sign that your dog needs more exercise or attention from you. If they suddenly start doing it as a sign of distress or seem to be aggravated and are trying to nip or chew on it, then you know it’s time to take a trip to the vet.