Today we’re going to talk about that highly amusing if not dizzying habit that dogs from all over the world seem to share: chasing their tails. While our dogs’ quirks are part of what endears them to us, we can’t help but question the motivations behind some of the strange things they do. In this instance, we answer the age old question of “Why do dogs chase their tails?”
When I was younger, I thought that it’s a dog’s ultimate life goal to get ahold of his tail, but I’ve seen dogs catch their tails and it didn’t seem like they reached a milestone in their life or anything. I could only surmise that there was more to it than being the first step to a dog’s self-actualization…
As it turns out, there are reasons (apart from it being hereditary) to why dogs chase their tails that are much simpler to comprehend. And that’s why why we are here after all, to answer the great mysteries of life (Thanks, internet!). And so we won’t have to chase our own tails, asking over and over again “why does my dog do that?!?” Take it away, science…
A growing puppy has a lot of moments where they learn new things about themselves and the world around them (see: this pup being amazed that mom can go down the stairs), and discovering their tail is just one of such moments.
To some degree you’ve always had a hunch that your dog was chasing his tail because he thinks it’s something foreign that’s following him, and this could be true. However, pups would learn soon enough that when they bite the strange thing following them, it leads to ouchies because it’s in fact attached to them.
Pretty sure the same logic applies to this girl being adorably scared because her own shadow was ‘chasing’ her.
As you may learn over the course of being a dog parent, a lot of our dogs’ strange behaviors often have something to do with boredom.
Destructive chewing? Bored.
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Licking the carpet? Bored.
Chasing his tail? Bored.
I mean, you’d want to be doing something too if you were bored, right? And if your dog doesn’t have enough activities to keep himself amused, then he might just start spinning in circles in an attempt to chase his tail.
The longer I think of it, the more it makes sense. We humans do have spinning teacup rides in amusement parks.
Anyway, the tail chasing is probably a sign for you to get your dog a toy to play with, or get him to do any of these cool boredom busters.
If your dog has noticed that you found his previous tail chasing antics cute, then the succeeding episodes may just be because he wants your attention once again.
One of our own pups starts spinning like crazy once he realizes that it’s feeding time, probably in an attempt to say, “Don’t forget to feed me!”
So the next time your dog starts chasing his tail, some good old TLC may be enough to get him to calm down. It’s just one of their ways to say, “Mooooom (or Daaaad), notice meee.”
On a more serious note, tail chasing can be a sign of a more pressing medical issue.
You know that instinctive urge to slap a part of your skin once you feel a mosquito biting it? Well, your dog chasing his tail may essentially be doing the same thing, but this time with fleas.
While dogs can easily start nibbling on the skin where they feel the flea bites, if it happens near the tip of their tail then it’s not something that they can easily access. As such, your dog will start chasing his tail in an attempt to get to the irritation.
If your dog doesn’t have any fleas, then another possible irritant may be discomfort in his anal glands. The response will generally be the same, so it would be good to rule out what irritation your dog is feeling in order to treat it properly.
Compulsive tail chasing may also be the result of high cholesterol levels in your dog’s body. When this happens, mood and behavior are affected due to the disruptive effect high cholesterol can have on hormones. Consult your vet to ask how high cholesterol can be addressed and treated before more serious symptoms start manifesting.
So why do dogs chase their tails? There are a variety of reasons ranging from something simple like they’re just realizing it exists for the first time, to something more concerning like possible health issues.
Thankfully, most of the time, it’s just one of the amusing and endearing reasons. In case you think it’s a symptom of something more serious, trust your gut and ask your vet for help.
Until then, it’s alright to laugh at your dog’s attempts to chase his tail. Just be sure to comfort him in case he does get it and end up biting it too hard or gets dizzy in the process!