Taking the time to sit back and watch my pit bull and my chihuahua playing together is sometimes very rewarding to me. It makes the everyday problems in life go away, if only briefly, as I gaze at the two of them enjoying each other’s company. Although Bunker (the pit bull) is much larger than Angel (the chihuahua), when they are in play motion, size does not matter.
One game they seem to like the best is chasing Angel’s tail. She will run round and round in circles trying to catch her tail. Often, she will succeed. Bunker, who has only a remnant of a tail (since his was docked when he was young), will eventually join in the chase. It seems much easier for him to catch her tail. Luckily, he never tries to bite it off — once he catches it, he lets go, takes a little break, and the chase is on again.
Why Does a Dog Chase Its Tail?
There are several reasons that dogs chase their tails, including:
- Being confined in small quarters where movement is restricted
- Boredom, especially in older dogs
- The presence of fleas or irritated anal glands
- Canine compulsive disorder, which although rare, can be treated with anti-obsessive medications such as Prozac.
- Hereditary tendency, with the behavior being passed down from generations, especially in some breeds including German shepherds, Australian cattle dogs and bull terriers
- High cholesterol, which as suggested by veterinarian Marty Becker, could mean that the dog’s cholesterol levels have blocked the flow of brain hormones, which control mood and behavior. (More exercise could be the solution in this case.)
- Not knowing why the tail is there to begin with! This part of a puppy’s body is fascinating to him, especially if he has no other playmates. Watch this video:
Can You Eliminate Tail Chasing? Should You?
While most tail chasing stops as a puppy gets older, many adult dogs continue this practice, sometimes just to get attention. Even though tail chasing can be entertaining at times, you might want to distract this behavior by offering your pet a ball or Frisbee to chase every so often.
According to the book Why Dogs Do That: A Collection of Curious Canine Behaviors, in some cases a visit to your veterinarian may be necessary. If you notice Fido gnawing and scratching at his hindquarters, he could have a skin ailment or a wound prompting him to go after his tail.
While I’m on the medical issues concerning this behavior, let me also mention that epileptic-type disorders, which bring about seizures, could be the culprit. If your dog exhibits any seizure-type problems, seek your veterinarian’s help immediately.
While celebrity trainer Cesar Millan thinks that tail chasing is sometimes just a canine’s reaction to all the excitement in his life, I have my own opinion as to why my Angel and Bunker play this game — they just wanna have fun.
- Marty Becker, DVM: Why do dogs chase their own tails?
- Nichola Dodman, DVM: Tail chasing in dogs
- Planet Dog: A Doglopedia: Why dogs chase their tails