It is a very common sight to see puppies chasing their tails. Each one of us has observed this at some point in life. It is as common as a child going around in circles. Just like children, puppies too are fascinated by their tails and like to go around chasing them much to the amusement of others.
Some dogs continue this behaviour even when they get older. Most of the time this is purely for fun when your dog has nothing better to do – dogs need to have fun too when they are bored! However, if you are disturbed by this behaviour, it is always a good idea to keep him entertained using other methods like toys and chewables.
Tail chasing can be learned behaviour. Adult dogs may learn that the owner is amused by this antic of theirs and will do it to get affection and attention. This does not mean that you have to be hard on your dog to get rid of this habit. All you need to do is stop giving him positive feedback whenever he displays this behaviour. Do not laugh and just entice him to do something else. You can try playing other games like Frisbee, ball or fetch with your dog.
Tail chasing may not always be for fun. There could be something else that is bothering your dog. For example, your dog might be suffering from a flea bite at the base of its tail. He may actually be trying to reach that place in vain. Even though this may look like regular tail chasing, there is a difference. The chasing itself will look a bit different if you observe closely. Dogs usually chase the tip of the tail for fun, however if he is trying to reach the base of his tail or body, then it’s time to do a basic check up to find out the root cause.
There may also be cases where the tail chasing is more of an obsessive compulsive behaviour. Studies have shown that such behaviour may be the result of high cholesterol diets. Stress is also another factor for such compulsive behaviour.
In this cases it’s advised that you consult a veterinarian. He will do a root cause analysis of your dog’s behaviour and recommend drug therapy if needed, with Prozac being the most commonly prescribed drug. Some behavioural training may also be needed on your part, but such measures are usually only needed for extreme cases where your dog chases its tail for hours on end.
Worms or impacted rectal sacs can also cause this behaviour. Other minor factors include surgery, physical trauma and illness. Some breeds like German Shepherds and Bull Terriers are more susceptible to tail chasing than other dog breeds.