There are many reasons to explain why a dog is chasing its tail. Like other predators, dogs hunt their tail simply when they are bored and pretend to have fun, especially if they are puppies. In the case of pets, this behavior is reinforced if the owner laughs and pay attention to the animal when it does. The dog will chase its tail to get the attention of its master.
However, sometimes this behavior can be an alarm signal. If the animal chases its tail very repeatedly and even bites, the reason may be that it is suffering from some kind of ailment or that a parasite is bothering it.
Interestingly, genetics influences dogs' tendency to chase their tail. Certain races, such as German shepherds or terriers, are more likely to do so, especially when they are bored and frustrated. Repeated and ritualized behavior provides them with a psychological reward that helps them reduce the feeling of stress and frustration.
In other cases, this behavior may be reflecting that the dog suffers from a mental ailment called compulsive canine disorder. Researchers have found many similarities between this canine problem and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) of humans, suggesting that both share the same biological causes. Therefore, some authors try to study dogs to understand the origin of OCD in man.
OCD appears in people who need to do very specific rituals to do daily activities (such as eating or washing). Sometimes, some obsessive thoughts make them keep strange beliefs, such as that they have killed someone or that everything is dirty. Then, they relieve this tension through compulsions, repetitive behaviors that are abnormal and that harm the person.
Animals that exhibit these behaviors can walk repetitively, hunt their tail, chase the lights or shadows or stand and move erratically.
It has been proposed that several motives may be behind these obsessive behaviors. Enclosure, abuse, anxiety or an early separation between puppies and mothers increases the frequency with which they appear, which shows that OCD and this canine disorder have similar environmental causes.
This compulsive canine disorder takes several forms depending on the breed of dog. As "The Guardian" reports, "Bull terrier," for example, tend to chase their tail. Doberman prefer to suck their paws and suck their flanks (sometimes serious injuries can be caused to the limbs), the farmers chew objects and rocks, and the "Cavalier King Charles spaniel" they hunt imaginary flies. In addition, there are many more examples: there are animals obsessed with water, with balls or with covering food before eating it.
Similarities with humans
A research published in 2016 in the journal PLOS ONE by researchers from the University of Lohi (Finland) discovered several indications that dogs can be a good model for studying human OCD.
First, they found out that dogs that hunt their tail are more likely to suffer from other compulsive behaviors, such as freezing, than those that don't chase their tails.
In addition, they observed that the dogs that chased the tail the most were more shy and less aggressive with humans. As they suggested, this canine shyness shares characteristics with the inhibition experienced by people who are characterized by behavior based on containment, flight and avoiding new things, characteristics of many people with obsessive compulsive behavior.
Apart from this, the consumption of minerals and vitamin B6 reduced the tendency of compulsive dogs to hunt their tails, similar to what has been observed in patients with OCD.
On many occasions the treatments that veterinarians use to prevent dogs from biting their tails, such as prozac, are the same as those used for OCD. For all that, many scientists study the genetic basis of obsessive behaviors in dogs, such as the CDH2 gene, to try to better understand some human ailments.
As explained in The Guardian Nicholas Dodman, a researcher who has worked with this canine disorder for decades, this parallelism raises the philosophical problem of closeness between humans and dogs: «When people know you are a veterinarian they tell you" must be difficult to learn all the differences between the same species. " But in reality, the answer is no. What you really learn is to appreciate the similarities ».
What are the reasons why dogs chase each other's tail?
- For being separated from his pack
This type of behavior is not only common in adult dogs, but also in puppies, especially in those that have been separated from their littermates. During the period of breastfeeding, puppies are used to live in a pack with their mother and siblings, and to play regularly with them. Once the separation takes place by taking them to a new house and the puppy is adopted by a family, they may suddenly find that they have lost their playmates, they are deprived of typical and fun games and therefore they pursue their queue because they need to find new formulas that provide that stimulus. If the owners do not pay them the slightest case, they are in a home where they are completely alone, without another dog that keeps him company, or with an adult dog that does not lend itself to playing with him, the puppies will find it difficult to start a game and at that time the queue will become the only available partner and his playmate. This is not bad in itself, as long as those turns do not become a compulsive obsession.
In this sense, an adult dog that chases its tail in a habitual and obsessive way, it is possible that it has developed an obsessive compulsive disorder during the puppy stage, or being already an adult. In these cases, as a recommendation it is to go to the veterinarian to confirm or not this possibility, and in case it is so to be able to start a treatment.
- Lack of social relationship with other dogs
Another reason why an adult dog starts chasing its tail may be because of the lack of social relationship with other dogs. It plays a fundamental role at this point the time you spend on your dog for a walk. Dogs usually need to socialize with other dogs and the environment, as well as deplete their energy through a certain period of exercise. The way to solve it is correcting these aspects taking care of your social needs a little more. Generally, it is said that this behavior is much more common in dogs that have been separated from their mother and siblings shortly after birth.
He boredom It is one of the most common reasons why our pets can chase their tail compulsively. Normally, this state is also derived from the lack of exercise or play. As we well know, dogs need exercise to feel good mentally and physically, as well as daily doses of play. If this is not usually the case, they adopt obsessive behaviors like this to keep themselves entertained.
It is very essential to highlight the importance of devoting a little time to our dog to run and release the accumulated tension, if not, it could derive the aforementioned.
- Irritation in the tail area
Before considering various options, we must rule out any physical cause. Another reason that justifies why a dog chases its tail is due to the appearance of a irritation in the tail area, such as inflammation of the anal glands, fleas, wounds, etc. In such cases, this behavior is usually accompanied by other manifestations, such as dragging the butt on the ground, biting the tail or licking the area of the anus sharply, and what the dog intends with these movements is to relieve these discomforts. If this is your case, do not hesitate to take your dog to the veterinarian to discover the cause of the irritation.
If your dog chases its tail a few times, it is probably because it simply feels some kind of itching on the tail and tries to end. If he manages to reach it, he may bite it gently. It is important to note that not all dogs chase their tail, since not everyone feels any lack of activity, social relationship, or play.
- Lack of attention from their owners
The lack of attention from their owners There may be a dog reacting this way. It is possible that the dog has noticed that every time he chases his tail he becomes the center of attention. You may feel that by performing such an action you get a positive reaction from your owner, just like a small child who does mischief to get attention and feel important. So because of this he will repeat this movement over and over again to feel loved and observed. Over time this can become an obsessive compulsive disorder, so it would be wise to go to a veterinarian to start some treatment.
- Genetic disposition
The pursuit of the tail by dogs tends to be established in certain breeds, and this confirms that it is a genetic predisposition. Studies have shown that the vast majority of dogs that chase the tail are Bull Terriers or breeds of German Shepherd lineage. A detailed study of Bull Terriers dogs mention that the disorder is transmitted through recessive genes.
If your dog usually chases his tail very often and you want to help him, pay more attention, play with him, make him exercise, offer him a toy that keeps him entertained and makes him forget for a while his striking and appetizing tail. Do not scold him for his behavior, because if he knows what makes you happy he will never stop doing it. But if you see that your dog does it with pain or with much despair, take it to the veterinarian immediately to rule out any skin problems.
Always remember that dogs are beings that need affection to feel at ease, and that their masters are also their favorite source of entertainment.
Why do dogs chase their tails?
Undoubtedly one of the funniest behaviors that usually attracts our dog's attention is when it begins to chase your tail, in a desperate and useless attempt to catch her. If your dog is one of them, you may have wondered the reason for this behavior and if it is a good sign or not. The truth is that dogs can do it for several reasons:
Often many of the behaviors of dogs have no other reason than to provide them with a time of fun and entertainment. Chasing the tail for fun is very frequent in puppies, where the curiosity to explore your own body and the need to consume energy make it one of your favorite activities.
Although no explanation has been found yet certain races are predisposed to perform this type of behavior, especially those terriers and the german shepherds. If your dog belongs to one of these breeds and loves to chase its tail, we should not give it too much importance.
Another possible reason why your dog chases its tail is get your attention. If every time he performs this behavior he gets you to listen to him, he is very likely to repeat it again to achieve the same result. Maybe your dog is telling you that he would like to share more moments of play and fun with you, try to spend a little more time and do more activities with him.
Chasing the tail compulsively and nervously can be a sign that your dog suffers some kind of anxiety, nervousness or stress. Performing this movement incessantly can help you alleviate that sensation, but in no way solve the problem. If you suspect that this may be the problem you should consult an ethologist.
In some cases, dogs chase their tail because they suffer the attack of parasites or skin problems. Taking your dog to the veterinarian and having his vaccines under control can help prevent and resolve any problems related to these discomforts.
In general it is normal behavior in dogs, especially when they are puppies. If we observe that it does so compulsive and too frequent It is advisable to visit the veterinarian to rule out any type of problem, the veterinarian can best advise us in this case.