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Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails? 5 Reasons Why

Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails? 5 Reasons Why

Without a doubt, chasing after things is a favorite activity of dogs all over. From the squirrel in the front yard to a frisbee in the park, our pooches love to be in pursuit of fun. We love watching our adorable goofballs, and they love providing us with joyful moments.

A familiar silly moment that’s been depicted in movies or TV time and time again is that of a dog chasing its tail. Watching a dog twirl round and round, chasing after the end of their body, is sure to provide some giggles.

We know that our dogs can be quite the smartypants, as evidenced by their uncanny ability to nab treats right off the counter or escape their doggy crates. Surely they know that they are chasing themself? Are they just being silly, or is there another reason why they are pursuing their own tail?

Let’s look at some of the most common reasons for this common dog behavior.


Boredom can be one of the main reasons why your dog is chasing their tail. If they’re cooped up all day without a chance to have some physical or mental stimulation, they may take things into their own paws and figure out a way to let off a little steam. Enter chasing after that fluffy tail; they believe if they run fast enough, they will eventually catch it.

Bored dogs can become inquisitive dogs, and that can lead to trouble. If you sense that your dog needs a bit more stimulation, adding in more and longer walks can help get out all that pent-up energy in a more productive way. Bring a few dog puzzles home to engage your dog’s mind and keep it off their tail.


According to animal behaviorists, certain compulsive behaviors can certainly be predisposed across dog breeds. Hounds will follow their nose to the ends of the Earth. Herding dogs, like collies, will herd anything in a group. Sheep, ducklings, and even groups of children have been pushed close together by herding dogs. One of the main reasons dogs engage in these repetitive behaviors is genetics.

One interesting fact about tail chasing is that some breeds are more disposed to tail chasing than others. German Shepherds, Anatolian Sheepdogs, and Bull Terriers are known for compulsive tail chasing. While the exact reasons for their tail chasing are unknown, if you have one of these breeds, ensure they have plenty of other ways to keep occupied.

If you are still bewildered by your dog’s tail chasing, you can contact AskVet, and our behavior experts will help you find alternatives that will promote healthy, happy behavior.

Attention Seeking

Our pups can be fast learners, particularly when one of their actions results in positive behavior from you. Your dog may see that tail chasing causes you to laugh, act excited, and shower them with affection.

This positive reinforcement incentivizes their behavior; they’ll keep doing it whenever they want to get a positive reaction out of you. Keep this behavior at bay by ensuring you devote some quality playtime to your furry best pal every day.

If your dog has already started to chase their tail to elicit a response from you, ignore the behavior until it stops. Once it stops, praise your dog. Eventually, your dog will learn that you will no longer show any response to this action, and they’ll stop chasing after their tail.

Medical Condition

An itchy tail or bottom can be a big reason your dog is chasing their tail. They may have fleas or intestinal parasites. Perhaps their anal glands need to be expressed, or your pup has a skin condition that can cause itchiness or discomfort.

If your dog cannot reach this uncomfortable or painful area with their paws, they may try to use their mouth. This can cause your dog to look like they are chasing their tail. But in reality, they are trying to soothe itchy or irritated skin.

When persistent tail chasing happens out of nowhere, this could be indicative of a medical issue, and a visit to your veterinarian is needed to rule out any serious medical conditions. If something is amiss, your veterinarian should diagnose the problems and prescribe any medications that will give your best buddy relief.

Cognitive Disorders

Anxiety and stress can cause your dog to become a persistent tail chaser. Dogs can experience obsessive-compulsive disorder, just like humans. Instead of nail-biting or persistent hand-washing, dogs will chase their tails. When dog parents notice behavior problems like tail-chasing, OCD is sometimes a contributor.

Whenever your pet is feeling anxious, maybe they are feeling separation anxiety whenever their best friend (you) leaves the house, they may choose to chase their tail as a way to soothe their emotions.

This is not healthy behavior if your dog constantly does this while you are away. Especially if they can catch their tail, your dog may choose to chew on it and damage the skin. This can lead to infections. As your pet continues to feel anxious, it can become an all-consuming cycle.

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Tail chasing can be a one-off cute behavior that your dog does from time to time. Just like the zoomies, it is laughter-inducing and provides wholesome entertainment. When this behavior occurs sporadically, it is a natural and normal behavior. However, if it starts to become a habitual behavior, it can be a sign of a problem that needs to be addressed by a DVM to rule out any concerning medical conditions.

A Certified Pet Lifestyle Coach™ (CPLC™) at AskVet could be your best first stop when you are concerned about tail chasing. Our experts are just the partners you want to have when it comes to your pet’s wellness journey.

Your pet’s personality is one of a kind, and when you schedule a virtual consultation with a CPLC™, our experts can help you create an equally unique Pet Lifestyle Plan to lay the best foundation for your best pal to thrive. From fish to felines and very fluffy or scaly companions in between, the AskVet team and community are here to lend a hand.


A Vicious Cycle: A Cross-Sectional Study of Canine Tail-Chasing | PLOS ONE

Characteristics of compulsive tail chasing and associated risk factors in Bull Terriers | AMVA

Training and veterinary care | Britannica

Genomic Risk for Severe Canine Compulsive Disorder, a Dog Model of Human OCD | International Journal of Applied Research


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