The real reason dogs chase their tails
Dogs have tons of strange quirks, from spinning in circles before they poop to kicking up the lawn afterward. But among the weirdest: chasing their own tails around and around.
It might look like a strange activity to humans, but tail-chasing is a way for dogs to burn off some steam. In most cases, they’re whirling for one of two reasons: They’re bored or they’re stressed, says certified dog behaviour consultant Russell Hartstein, founder of Fun Paw Care.
If a dog doesn’t have anything (or anyone) to play with, it might need to entertain itself—in this case, by playing with its tail. On the other end of the spectrum, the behaviour could be a warning sign that your pooch is anxious or stressed. “We call these displacement behaviors, similar to a human twirling their hair or tapping their foot,” says Hartstein. “They seek to do self-soothing behaviours.” (Don’t miss these other secrets your dog’s tail is trying to tell you.)
One reason tail-chasing can be a go-to for dogs is that they start playing with their tails as playful puppies learning about their bodies. Owners laugh at the activity, so the dog learns it can get attention when it whirls, says Hartstein.
It’s normal for dogs to chase their own tails every now and then, but watch out if your pet is doing it every day or it seems to become an obsession. A constantly bored or stressed dog might be feeling neglected, so make sure its basic needs are being met, including exercise and socialization. (Here are more things your pet wishes you knew.)
A visit to the vet is also a good idea. If the tail-chasing started suddenly, your dog might be reacting to a medical issue, like cognitive dysfunction, epilepsy, or tapeworm, says Hartstein. The sooner you get a medical checkup, the better. “A lot of times, parents think, ‘If I just wait, it will get better on its own,’” Hartstein says. “But [behaviours] get more intense; they get more ingrained.” With some treatment and extra training, you and your pooch will both be happier.