Picture of a dog chasing its tail - why do they do that?

Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails? (The Answer May Surprise You)

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Often, you’ll see your dog running in endless circles trying to chase its tail. But have you ever wondered why dogs chase their tails? As you progress, you’ll learn common reasons why your dog chases its tail and when to seek help from your veterinarian.

Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

Dogs chase their tails for various reasons. Sometimes, your dogs might just be having fun, learning their body, and are just curious about what they can do. Even so, there are times that your dog will chase its tail as a sign of compulsive behavior.

Dogs also chase their tails as a sign of boredom. This may result from being left alone for the better part of the day or not getting enough physical and mental spur. So, chasing the tail provides your dog with some entertainment and allows the dog to release part of the built-up energy.

Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails When Excited?

Playfulness is one reason why dogs chase their tails when excited. As would be the case with human kids, puppies will want to know more about their world using their mouths.

During the growth process, your dog will learn new things about themselves and learn their anatomy in some way. Since puppies are super playful, they might view their tail as a fun toy to chase and play with. This shouldn’t worry you as they’ll outgrow this behavior with time.

Attention seeking could be another reason your dog chases its tail when excited. When your dog feels like you aren’t giving it the deserved attention, it’ll pull out all kinds of antics, including chasing its tail to get your reaction.

Ensure you set time aside daily to spend with your canine friend. Dogs are super social creatures that need lots of your attention.

Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails and Bite Them?

Sometimes, dogs chase and bite their tails out of curiosity or boredom. Other times, your dog will chase and bite its tail to point out something more severe. 

For instance, if your dog is in pain, it’ll chase and chew at the painful region on the tail to get some relief. Also, your dog will chase and bite its tail to ease discomfort resulting from an allergic reaction.

Ticks, fleas, and internal parasites might make your dog chase and bite its tail to ease irritation. Anxiety will also make your dog chase and bite or lick its tail, especially if you have new guests at home or during thunderstorms.

Treating Compulsive Behavior in Your Dogs

If you’re convinced your dog’s tail-chasing results from compulsive behavior and affects the quality of life of your dog, call your vet. Your veterinarian will assess the physical and mental health of your dog.

Often, underlying medical problems will lead to your dog’s compulsive behavior. After the examination, your vet will prescribe the necessary medication. It’d help combine the prescribed medication with dog training focusing on behavioral reforms.

Tips from Our Vets

Dogs make excellent companions and bring so much joy to our lives. Unfortunately, however, they cannot speak to us.

If your pet exhibits odd behavior, it can be worrisome and difficult to know if the behavior is normal or a reason for concern.

Not sure why your dog is exhibiting a specific behavior?

  • Some behaviors can seem very odd but may be completely normal.
  • Others could signal illness or injury.
  • Due to the lack of ability for a dog to communicate with us verbally, it is imperative to pay close attention to what the dog is telling us through their behavioral changes.

The most important takeaway is that if you are ever concerned about a behavior that your dog is displaying, your best resource for information is your veterinarian.

In general, a new behavior that is not typical for your dog should be investigated. Examples would be:

  • Not eating
  • Suddenly sleeping more than usual
  • Being reluctant to go on walks or to play
  • Becoming aggressive or grumpy when interacting with other people or pets

These behavior changes most commonly indicate that something is wrong, and your pet needs to see their veterinarian as soon as possible. It is much easier and more likely to be successful, to treat an illness early in its course as opposed to waiting until the dog is very sick.

Other odd behaviors include:

  • Eating feces
  • Chasing their tail
  • Sudden bursts of activity (known as the “zoomies”)

These may be completely normal. However, if you notice a drastic change in your dog, for example, they never exhibited one of these behaviors, and now they suddenly are, it is prudent to have them examined by their veterinarian as soon as possible.

Even if the behavior is normal, it may lead to unintended issues.

For example, young dogs consuming their feces or the feces of other dogs can be a normal behavior but can lead to gastrointestinal upset as well as intestinal parasitism.

Parasites from your dog can cause serious health complications, not only for your dog, but also for you and your family, as many are transmissible to humans.

Licking of the feet or scratching may seem like normal dog behavior but typically indicates a health issue such as allergies, fleas, or skin infection.

Left untreated, these issues will worsen and cause additional discomfort for your dog.

Remember that your best source of reliable health information for your dog is your veterinarian. Because dogs cannot verbally communicate with us, it is essential to be proactive with any possible health concerns.

Working with a trusted veterinarian as your partner will ensure many happy and healthy years for both you and your dog.

Final Thoughts: Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

Why do dogs chase their tails? Dogs chase their tail for various reasons like playfulness, boredom, attention seeking, and underlying medical issues.

If you notice your dog’s tail-chasing behavior isn’t normal, seek help from your veterinarian. See this page for more insightful information like this.

If you’re looking for answers to explain your dog’s behaviors, you can check out our series of guides on why dogs do what they do:

Pet News Daily Staff
Pet News Daily writers are experts in pet care, health and behavior. We are members of Society for Professional Journalists and practice ethical journalism.