Ever Wondered Why Your Dog Chases Their Tail?

Still scratching your head in confusion about why your dog is chasing their tail? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most owners aren’t quite sure why their fur-friends circle around and around in a usually pointless attempt to catch their tails either. But the question still stands, why does my dog do this? 

Unfortunately, there's more than one answer. Depending on your dog, there are a few different reasons why you’ll find them trying to ‘catch’ their tail. In this article we’ve narrowed it to 5 key reasons – let’s check them out. 

Excessive Energy

Often, when someone sees a dog chasing their tail the general assumption is because the dog is bored. However, it’s usually not boredom but rather an insufficient level of physical activity that’s the cause. If your pooch has a great need for physical exercise, they might engage in tail chasing to use their energy and tire themselves out. If this is the case, the tail chasing should stop once their activity levels are increased. 

Breed and Age

Some dogs are known to have a genetic predisposition to compulsive behaviours like tail chasing. For example, flank sucking is common in Dobermans and tail chasing is common in Terriers and German Shepherds. The age of your dog might also be a factor. Sudden tail chasing is common in older dogs and often a signal of psychological or medical conditions. In puppies, however, it can be a harmless expression of play.


If your dog suddenly starts chasing or biting at their tail, a visit to the vet is probably due. Research mentions that dogs will chew at a painful area much like people rub an arthritic knee to provide relief. For example, dogs that get their tails caught in a door or nicked on a sharp object will chase and chew at their tails to soothe the injury. Furthermore, dogs will also chase their tails when they are infested with intestinal parasites like tapeworms. 


Tail chasing can also be the symptom of an underlying anxiety or psychological issue.  The behaviour begins with the dog chasing or scratching at the tail after an injury or irritation. As the behaviour is comforting for the dog, it can become a habit when they are feeling threatened. Even after the tail has healed or the irritation has gone, the action makes them feel safe. 
 Although difficult to treat, it can be somewhat prevented if stopped early enough.


Dogs are social animals, and there’s nothing they love more than attention and affection from their humans. So if your dog learns that by chasing their tail they will get your attention, chances are, they're going to continue doing it.  Even negative attention can be perceived as positive reinforcement. Tail chasing is an invitation for you to take notice and play with them. The key to stopping this type of tail chasing is almost illogical. You should try to ignore your dog while they are running in circles and praise them when they're not. 

If you’d like more vet approved pet health advice, sign up to our monthly newsletter here, or visit www.vetshopaustralia.com.au/Pet-Health.

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