Why do dogs chase their tails?

Why do dogs chase their tails? Don’t they realize that it’s a part of them, and doesn’t it hurt when they catch it?

Well, according to “Ask Dr. Larry” at DiscoveryKids.com:

I’ve also read that it may be due to the dog trying to get at fleas, or some other problem that may cause itching or pain in the tail region.

And hey - some dogs are just goofy that way. Good on them!

Like that dog I saw on one of those home video shows: it was pushing a large flat stone around the yard for seemingly hours on end.

I’ve seen that video - dogs like that are awesome.

My favorite is the dog that steals the bagels from the toaster oven as soon as their owner leaves the room.

My impression has always been that dogs and cats (I have more experience with cats) have an instinct that prompts them to try to chase and pounce on a moving string. The string in this instinct may represent the tail of a typical prey animal, like a squirrel.

Sometimes cats or dogs, especially while young, will have that instinct kick in by catching a glimpse of their moving tail. Hilarity ensues because the motion needed to catch the tail always leads to the tail moving further away from the front paws. Older animals seem to realize that the tail is not a suitable trigger for the chase instinct, sort of like after the first time or two most realize their reflection in a mirror is no big deal.

Sometimes it’s a matter of prey drive.

My toller, when he was just a wee pup, was lying down on the living room floor as I talked to him. His tail started to wag. He looked at it… didn’t really realise it was attached to him. It stopped wagging, he stared at it, it wagged again!

He stalked his tail, pounced, eventually caught it and bit himself. THEN he realised it was attached to him.

:wink: A lot of pups chase their own tails for fun. Doesn’t seem to last very long past puppyhood. Then again, it’s been a while since I’ve had a puppy with a tail! (Real dogs don’t have tails, my aussies say!)

Their is usually an irritating factor in that region and the common ones are :

  1. Impacted anal glands (scent glands) located under the tail and anus
  2. Biting external parasites
  3. Skin problems.

There is usually an irritating factor in that region and the common ones are :

  1. Impacted anal glands (scent glands) located under the tail and anus
  2. Biting external parasites
  3. Skin problems.

it can be become obsessive behaviour if not checked and we had one who chewed the last segment off her tail under the stress/boredom of kennels.

All the dogs I’ve seen do it were trying to get at an itch or some other irritation. Eventually they would catch their tail, chomp in the end a little to relieve the symptoms of said pruritis, and then go about their business.

My cat, on the other hand, can easily reach the end of his tail, and normally just ignores it. However, when conditions are right (like he’s partially hidden behind some drapes), he’ll spy that tail flicking out from beneath, as if it were some creature acting of its own volition, and then whip about in circles madly for a few seconds in an effort to catch it. This is almost certainly some sort of predatory play-acting.

Of course, this is just anecdotal. All the cats and dogs I’ve grown up with or owned love to chase things. In my experience, the different species had seemingly different motivations regarding their own tails, though.

My sister’s dog does it as a party trick. He chases his tail when there are new people aound, and they are not paying enough attention to him. You can almost see the words “Hey, look at ME!” form over him. If you laugh, he will keep going until he is dizzy and wobbles into something.

I’ve always noticed it as part of the “Puppy Crazies” phase, where pups exhibit all sorts of sporadic, run-wild behavior. Both of our black lab crosses were just crazy pups! Fortunately, we live in an area that allows them a lot af freedom of movement to vent off energy. Both dogs, now 80 and 100 lbs., can easily curl into a ball with their tail tucked in (they sleep this way sometimes) and reach the lower third effortlessly if they wanted to chew on it. I’m not sure why a dog would do this due to a skin condition unless they had a really short tail, or were too fat to reach it.