Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

Have you ever seen a "whirling" dog? No, it's not circus act—whirling is commonly known in the animal kingdom as chasing ones tail, and it's a natural behavior seen among predators in the wild. Some experts in animal behavior believe tail chasing among predatory animals (who don't have to worry about any other animals chasing and devouring them) is just a factor of having lots of time on their hands! But what does whirling mean when your pet pooch is doing it?

The Rite of Puppyhood

Puppies, having not a thing in the world to worry them, like, for instance, predators, or from where their next meal is coming, have lots of free time to chase their tails. When bored, puppies may all of a sudden notice their wagging tails which become an immediate cure for that boredom, and thus begins the chase! Of course if they happen to catch that tail and take a bite, that might be the sure cure for tail chasing in the first place! Look at it this way: tail chasing is the first chapter in your puppy's book of life, which can be entitled: "Whirling - A Rite of Puppyhood!"

Don't Encourage Your Pup

One thing worth remembering if your puppy chases its tail is you shouldn't show your pup more attention by laughing and encouraging him on. This action could very well encourage your pup to carry on with this unwanted behavior. Your pup may then associate tail chasing with attracting your attention!

As your pup grows into adulthood they learn to live with their tails and they make peace with their hind quarters and allow their tails to, well, hang around and follow them for the rest of their lives.


Mature dogs tend to play less and sleep more. But tail chasing in older dogs can be a sign of some other ailment or disorder. Check your dog for fleas, worms, irritated anal glands or even some type of wound. If nothing is found, a trip to the veterinarian still may be in order. Oftentimes, as suggested by veterinarian Marty Becker, the flow of brain hormones controlling mood and behavior have been blocked by high cholesterol. For this case, more exercise may be the solution to the problem. So grab that ball or frisbee and get outside and play!

Behavioral Problems

Tail chasing can also point to a behavioral problem in older dogs. These problems may surface as compulsive disorders that can lead to chewing or licking disorders as well as obsessive tail chasing. Canine compulsive disorder is rare but can be treated with drugs such as Prozac (an anti-obsessive medication.)


Confining a dog indoors for long periods of time may also cause whirling. Certain breeds like German Shepherds, Australian cattle dogs and terriers, tend to chase their tails more often than other breeds due to heredity. The behavior is passed down from generation to generation.

Your Vet May Be The Answer

If your dog is constantly whirling, it's a good idea to take your dog to the vet for a check up. The vet may be able to diagnose the problem (if it's something caused by an epileptic disorder which causes seizures) and treat it with medicine. You may also be given some advice on treating the tail chasing if it becomes a real problem (i.e. an obsessive-compulsive disorder) which can cause unhealthy weight loss, meal skipping, sores and exhaustion from the constant whirling. Contacting the vet could be the answer as well as the cure to getting your dog back on the road to a healthy life!

By Tom Matteo