Dogs have long been called “man’s best friend,” but they may be deserving of a second title: “world’s weirdest animal.” Dogs can be friendly, moody, playful and sleepy all in the matter of a day, much like humans. But also like (some) humans, they can exhibit bizarre behavior that is seemingly inexplicable, even as it crosses many breeds. One of these behaviors is the time honored tradition of dogs chasing their own tails. Why do they do it? Let’s find out.
While no one can quite agree on the exact psychology behind a dog chasing its tail, many experts have come to conclude that it is mostly due to boredom. Think about being a dog for a moment, particularly one that spends its days indoors. Watch your dog’s behavior. How much of its time is spent simply lying on the floor, gazing aimlessly out at nothing? How long would it take you to get bored with this? Now imagine 24 hours of this, every day, for the rest of your life. You would probably do more than chase your tail. Whether or not young dogs even understand that their tail is attached is up for debate, but having this concrete knowledge would help us understand a bit more about the reasons behind tail chasing.
Other than boredom, there can be another reason for tail chasing. The dog may simply enjoy the reaction it gets from you when it does so. Most pet owners are quick to laugh or lavish attention on their pets when they do something funny or out of the ordinary. While the dog may not consciously appreciate the entertainment value of his actions, he will soon learn to correspond an activity with a response. Dogs crave attention, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that tail chasing could be an attempt to get some
Is tail chasing anything to be concerned about? If it’s done only occasionally, then probably not. If your dog is very young (under one year), then probably not. However, if the tail chasing is frequent, vigorous and occurs in an older dog, it may be time to show some concern. Dogs can injure themselves while chasing their tails, particularly when they finally catch it. Make sure the tail chasing is not connected to an itching problem, such as a rash or fleas. Excessive chewing on any appendage could lead to mutilation and eventual amputation.
Because tail chasing could be linked to a plea for attention, owners should be careful not to praise their pets or go out of their way to show their dogs special attention when they engage in this activity. Doing this will only encourage the behavior to go on longer.
Again, in order to crack down on tail chasing, you should be careful to avoid lavishing attention on the dog when he performs the activity. You might consider increasing the amount and intensity of playtime you spend with your dog. A dog that has a chance to work out all of its nervous energy and alleviate boredom will be much less likely to engage in tail chasing. Finally, make sure the dog has plenty of toys around. Chewing on toys and bones can keep the dog occupied. An occupied dog will not be forced to make up his own entertainment.