It is a funny sight to see your dog spinning round and round whilst chasing his tail. However, there is more to this behaviour than a just fun game for him. Have you ever asked yourself, why do dogs chase their tails? Here are the six most common reasons:
It is quite common to see a puppy chasing his tail. That is because a young dog is still in the process of knowing his body parts. His curiosity pushes him to treat his tail more like a toy than a part of his body.
An older dog is prone to chasing, biting, and chewing his tail due to ageing. As a dog reaches his senior years, his awareness is reduced. It consequently leads him to exhibit these recurrent behaviours.
Terrier breeds such as the Jack Russell terrier and West Highland white terrier show signs that they are prone to tail chasing as well. However, there is a lack of substantial data to verify this speculation.
A dog chasing his tail is a sign of a bored canine. He may not be getting enough exercise. Thus, to expend his extra energy, he decides to chase his tail.
Giving him stimulating toys such as a puzzle toy and a chew toy will keep him from doing this behaviour. Providing him with enough daily exercise is a big help in inhibiting obsessive chasing behaviour of his tail as well.
Who doesn’t find it adorable whenever they see a dog chasing his tail? Our furry buddies relish receiving that attention from us. It will encourage your dog to do it every time he wants your attention.
In turn, this may become a behavioural issue. Be careful not to scold him as negative attention will act as positive reinforcement.
A dog with external parasites such as fleas and ticks is more likely to chase his tail too. He will try to catch his tail before sitting down to chew on the affected spot to alleviate itchiness. If you notice that your dog keeps on chewing his tail, get him checked by the vet for parasites.
6. Serious Health Issues
Tail chasing can be linked to a handful of distressing health problems as well. It may be a compulsive disorder caused by separation anxiety, physical and mental abuse, trauma, confinement, or past injuries. The condition may also be triggered by tail docking, infection, or even cancer.
In some research, experts observe that there is a connection between compulsive tail chasing and high levels of blood and cholesterol. However, more research needs to be made to get a definitive answer.
Why do dogs bite their tails?
Tail chasing is sometimes accompanied by tail biting. Are you wondering what causes this behaviour? The following is a list of the most prevalent reasons why dogs bite their tails.
The reason behind tail biting may also be due to injuries on the hindquarters such as a tail bone fracture. These injuries will increase your dog’s pain or discomfort, and in an attempt to soothe the pain, he may bite his tail.
- Anxiety and Stress
Much like humans, when dogs are stressed, they try to find an outlet for their frustrations. In most cases, they will likely engage in repetitive and destructive behaviours to appease their uneasiness.If our canine companions feel stressed, they may excessively howl and bark, destroy furniture, eliminate indiscriminately, or bite their tails.
- Hot spots
Hot spots are red lesions that can be quite itchy and painful for dogs. If the affected areas are repeatedly chewed and scratched, it results in skin inflammation and secondary bacterial formation. This will lead to a never-ending scratching and itching cycle unless treated. If you see matted hair, hair loss, scabs, blood, or pus on your dog’s tail, that means he is suffering from hot spots.
Dogs may suffer from various kinds of allergies. Food allergies are commonly caused by ingesting wheat, poultry, fruits, or vegetables that trigger an allergic reaction. Environmental allergies are caused by dust, mould, household chemicals, or pollen. These allergies usually induce itchiness and skin infection that may lead your dog to chew his tail nonstop.
The itchiness caused by fleas, mites, or tick bites makes it unbearable for your pooch not to bite his tail. In some cases, dogs experience severe hives or rashes from these parasites, which has saliva that can trigger allergic reactions. Tapeworm infestation may also cause discomfort in the area surrounding the anus. Your pooch will attempt to bite or gnaw on it to get rid of the irritating sensation.
- Impacted Anal Glands
Having impacted anal glands may also bring about tail biting. The condition is also known as anal sac disease. It occurs when the fluid in your dog’s anal sacs are not squeezed out. Other noticeable symptoms of anal gland impaction are scooting, hard time defaecating, and foul odour coming from your dog’s bottom.
- Imbalanced Hormones
Lack of hormones caused by diseases can lead to the development of skin problems. For instance, low levels of thyroid hormones make your dog more susceptible to skin infections. As a result, he will frequently be nursing the itchy areas with scratches and bites.
How to stop dogs from chasing and biting their tails
Although tail chasing may seem like harmless behaviour, be sure to keep an eye on your dog. A dog’s tail contains small and fragile bones, and if your dog constantly chews on his tail, it can lead to serious medical issues.
Your dog’s tail bone might get fractured or injured due to continuous biting and chewing it. If tail chasing and biting have become a habit for your dog, act right away.
The first step would be to determine the cause of behavioural problems. Since there are too many plausible causes, it may be a challenging task to do it on your own. Work with the vet to accurately pinpoint the root of the problem.
Your dog’s treatment will depend on the vet’s diagnosis. Here are some solutions the vet may recommend for tail biting and chewing:
- Behaviour Modification Therapy
Take note that this should be done before your furry companion bites or chases his tail. So, you will need to predict when your dog is about to chase or chomp his tail. After that, introduce a distraction to prevent him from doing the compulsive behaviour. This includes giving him a treat, playing a game of fetch, or letting him play with his toys. You may also consult an animal behaviourist on how to do this the correct right way.
- Killing Off Parasites
If your dog has parasites, the vet will prescribe suitable medications to get rid of them. They may give him flea drops, medicated baths, flea collars, anti-itch antibiotics products, and other treatments. To prevent parasite infestation from recurring, regularly clean your house, furniture, and your dog’s bed. Make sure that he is also up to date with the necessary flea treatments.
- Changing Food
A dog with food allergies will likely need to go through an elimination diet. This will determine what food triggers allergic reactions in his body. Once these are identified, these ingredients need to be removed from your dog’s diet. The vet may suggest a special diet that fits your dog’s condition.
- Dealing with Boredom or Anxiety
Spend enough time with your furry friend and make sure that his daily exercise needs are met. If he is suffering from separation anxiety, you will need to train him so that he gets used to your absence at home. Redirecting their biting tendencies to chew toys or dog-safe bones are also good ways to curb tail chasing and biting.
So, why do dogs have tails?
Tails are not merely an aesthetic design for dogs. They have significant uses in their daily activities. Here are the three primary functions of dogs’ tails:
The tail acts as a counterbalance. This is more noticeable when your pooch walks along a narrow surface. His tail helps in keeping his balance by placing its weight on the opposite side of where his body is tilting.
Do you notice that when your dog plays a game of chase, his tail shifts in a different direction depending on his body movement? That’s because it acts as a lever that aids him in making skilful movements.
For example, whilst running, his front legs go in the same direction he aims to go, and his hind legs continue in the original direction. However, his tail will swerve in another direction. That way, he will not accidentally tumble around or spin off course.
Our furry companions do not only use facial expressions, barks, and howls to communicate with us. Their adorable tails also tell us what they feel. Here is a list of the different kinds of tail postures and the meaning behind them:
- Held up high and wagging back and forth
This posture is often coupled with erect ears, open mouth, and jolly bows. This indicates that your dog is happy and excited.
- Held downward
This posture denotes that your dog may be frightened or nervous. If he is too anxious or scared, there may be no tail wags. Also, his tail will be tucked underneath his body.
- Held as high as possible
This action is a sign that your dog is trying to establish his dominance toward another pooch. You may also notice that his ears are up and his body is leaning a bit forward.
- Tucked between the legs
This posture is often accompanied by your dog rolling on his back and exposing his underbelly. This is an act of submission toward a dominant dog or person.