Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

It looks ridiculous when your dog races around in circles, trying to catch his tail, right? I mean, does your dog actually think she’s going to catch that bit of fluff that’s eternally just out of reach? What’s the story with dogs chasing their tails anyway? Surely they don’t do it just to hear us laugh? Or, do they?

Try not to get dizzy watching these pups spinning around in circles!


All joking aside, though, why do dogs chase their tails? We’ve managed to round up a few theories for you to consider.

Puppies Don’t Know Any Better

Just like babies who suck on their toes and don’t seem to know their feet are actually attached to their bodies, some puppies don’t seem to realise their tails are an extension of themselves. Attracted by the flash of movement in the corner of her eye, a puppy’s inner wolf can’t help but chase a moving object, even when the effort doesn’t get her far. Older dogs tend not to engage in the behaviour nearly as much.

Sometimes though, a bored older dog may start spinning as a way to create a bit of excitement and find something to do.

Providing your dog with lots of exercise (or perhaps another dog to play with) can help reduce this kind of behaviour.

It’s Your Fault!

It’s always the parents’ fault, isn’t it? In this case, that may actually be true. What do you do when your dog chases her tail? Laugh? Bend over and clap your hands? Tell her how silly she is, but in a voice that says you really love her to bits? All that attention is irresistible, especially for dogs that are highly motivated by praise. By paying so much attention to your dog spinning around, you may inadvertently be encouraging the behaviour.

Skin Irritation

Though most of the time tail-chasing is a fairly benign behaviour, sometimes a dog really is determined to catch his tail because it’s driving him crazy and he wants to chew or lick it. Inflamed or irritated skin can be the sign of a serious health problem, one that could be caused by allergies, injury, or insect bites. If your dog really can’t seem to stop himself from chasing his tail you should have a vet confirm there’s nothing serious going on that’s causing the problem.

It’s in the Genes

Did you know that some breeds of dogs are more likely to chase their tails? Turns out The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) and terriers can be prone to this sort of whirling around.

If your puppy expresses this behaviour early on and never quite grows out of it, that’s less worrying than an older dog that suddenly starts twirling. Injuries and neurological problems should be ruled out before you decide to ignore the behaviour. Sometimes, spinning or tail-chasing can be compulsive behaviours that have their origins in trauma early on in life and the sooner you get to the bottom of the problem and try to deal with it, the better for your dog. 

A well-balanced dog (psychologically-speaking) is less likely to engage in compulsive behaviours as is one that gets lots of exercise, love and attention, and eats a healthy diet.

Feeding a raw food diet for dogs made from natural whole foods without artificial flavours, preservatives, and additives can help eliminate skin conditions caused by food allergies. If for any reason you are concerned about your dog’s behaviour, consult your vet or a trainer (or both) and don’t just wait to see if things will get better on their own.

Does your dog chase its tail? Have you seen a pattern? Share your experiences with other Rawmate pack members in the comments below so we can all learn from each other.


If you have questions like:

Why do dogs bark? Or

Why do dogs eat grass? We can answer those too.


Suggestions for future blog posts are always welcome, as are requests for guest submissions and guest blog posting.

Have any podcast recommendations?  


Matt Joseph

Staff writer

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