Caitlin UltimoBehavior / Pet Facts

Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tail?

The beauty of puppies is that they can be so amusing with little to no effort on their end. The adorable way that they spot their tail from the corner of their eye and launch at it like it’s prey can keep us humans thoroughly entertained for hours on end. And while this behavior is cute and laughable for young dogs, once they become older, it may be worth it to explore the reasons behind tail-chasing a little deeper. Puppies don’t know better, but older dogs are expected to understand the difference between their tail and a toy.

“I actively discourage tail chasing in most dogs,” says Ilana Krieger, owner of PhD Pups Dog Training in Milford, Massachusetts. “It is a far more complex behavior than it sounds.” If you have a dog who chases his tail from time to time, or often, keep reading for some expert insight and advice.

Boredom. One of the most common reasons why a dog would chase his own tail is for mental stimulation. It’s possible that your dog is experiencing boredom throughout the day and needs a way to keep himself occupied. Trips to the dog park, games of fetch or extra-long walks are great ways to give your pup an outlet to release any extra energy he has stored up. Another idea would be to provide fun, interactive dog toys to keep him engaged and satisfied. The JW Pet Hol-ee Roller is an innovative rubber ball that is super durable and double-molded to withstand even the toughest of chewers. The toy is shaped like a honeycomb with openings to stick treats into for endless interactive play. With the USA Bones & Chews Cotton Rope with Hooves Dog Toy, your beloved pup can gnaw his worries away with a multi-colored cotton blend rope and delicious hooves that are 100% made in the USA. Chewing on the rope helps support healthy teeth and gums, while the all-natural beef hooves have an enticing scent that dogs find irresistible.

Lack of interaction. If you are not giving your dog enough love and affection, this could be the reason for his unusual behavior. Between long hours at the office and countless chores that need to be done around the house, it can be difficult to give your dog the constant, undivided attention he clearly deserves. If this is the case, it’s important to take advantage of the time you do have together by making it fun and exciting for your dog. For a riveting game of fetch, just bring the KONG AirDog Squeakair Ball Dog Toy to your backyard or local park for a guaranteed good time. The Squeakair Ball combines a traditional tennis ball with an amusing squeaky toy that your dog will go crazy for. Pair it with the Chuckit! Classic Launcher and toss your tennis ball three times farther than normal. Even better, you can scoop the ball up with the launcher, so you’ll never have to touch a slobbery tennis ball ever again. Between these toys and interaction with his favorite human, you may never see your dog chase his tail, ever again.

Anxiety. “Tail chasing (especially when excessive) is frequently a behavior without an explicit function and is commonly a sign of anxiety in dogs, and, in some cases, can even be a neurological symptom,” says Dr. Krieger. Obsessive compulsive disorders in dogs, although rare, can cause them to obsessively engage in repetitive behaviors like circling or tail chasing. These behaviors can be hard to kick if they become habitual or obsessive. “Anxiety and OCD in dogs can manifest in different ways, and tail chasing can be one of them,” says Dr. Krieger. “It is best to work with a behaviorist who can help to develop a plan to stop the unwanted behavior while also replacing it with more appropriate behaviors … Consulting with a behaviorist can help you to determine if the behavior is merely benign, silly tail chasing or a true symptom of anxiety.”

Keep in mind that there are some dog breeds who are predisposed to be more susceptible to anxious or obsessive behaviors. Dr. Krieger notes that Setters and Spaniels are more likely to engage in excessive tail chasing, and she encourages pet parents to pay extra attention to socializing them and exposing them to as many new things as possible while they are still puppies. She recommends providing these dogs with clear guidance, rules, basic obedience and mental stimulation to keep them on track.