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  • Writer's pictureKate Phillips

Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?

a dog's tail, why do dogs chase their tails

Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails?


A peculiar sight often unfolds in the UK's cosy homes and lush gardens – our furry family members engaging in a curious dance with their tails. 

This behaviour, where dogs whirl in endless circles, is a source of entertainment and a subject ripe for psychological exploration

This blog article discusses the reasons for this tail-chasing phenomenon, examining the intricate blend of instinct, environment, and play.

dog chasing its tail, why d dogs chase their tails

The Tail-Chasing Phenomenon 


Tail-chasing is when a dog spins in pursuit of its tail, creating a loop of motion that can be both amusing and bewildering. 

Regardless of breed or age, the phenomenon of tail-chasing is a common sight in the UK's diverse dog community. 

Whether in the park or the living room, dogs of all sizes engage in this circular pursuit, a physical expression of their instincts and, perhaps, a window into their emotional world.

As we unpack this phenomenon, we'll explore the 'how' and 'why' of these circular escapades.

A Glimpse into Canine Psychology 


The quest to understand why dogs chase their tails takes us into canine psychology. 

It's a behaviour that's as enigmatic as it is endearing. 

In the UK, where a mosaic of breeds thrives, tail-chasing can stem from various psychological triggers. 

For some, it's a harmless quirk; for others, it may signal anxiety or a compulsive disorder. 

The breed's genetic predisposition and individual upbringing play a significant role. 

A terrier in a bustling London flat might circle out of boredom. At the same time, a spaniel in the Scottish Highlands might do so out of sheer playfulness. 

Understanding these psychological nuances is key to ensuring the well-being of our furry family.

owner with small dog, why do dogs chase their tails

The Circle of Life and Play 


Play is an essential thread in the fabric of canine life, and tail-chasing is often a playful twist. 

This circular pursuit can be a self-soothing exercise or a joyous attempt to engage with their human companions. 

Dogs often indulge in this behaviour in the UK's many green spaces, showcasing their zest for life. 

The importance of play cannot be overstated—it's crucial for children's physical health, mental stimulation, and social skills. 

It's a way for dogs to express themselves, explore their environment, and interact with their furry family members. 

Through play, they learn the boundaries of their world and the joy of living within it.

dog chasing its tail, why d dogs chase their tails

When Circles Indicate a Problem


Seeing a dog chasing its tail can be amusing and perplexing in canine behaviour. 

While often considered a harmless quirk, it's important to recognise when these circles may be symptomatic of an underlying psychological issue. 

In the UK, veterinarians and animal behaviourists are keenly aware that repetitive tail-chasing may signal conditions such as Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD), which is similar to OCD in people.

Identifying Psychological Issues


A key indicator that tail-chasing is more than just playful antics is the frequency and intensity of the behaviour. 

Suppose a dog is chasing its tail obsessively, to the point of self-harm or neglecting other activities like eating or sleeping. In that case, it's time to consult a professional. 

In the UK, the approach to such behavioural concerns is methodical. Vets conduct thorough assessments to rule out medical causes before referring to a certified animal behaviourist.

Potential Treatments and Interventions


Medication and behavioural treatment are frequently used to treat psychological disorders that emerge as tail-chasing. 

In the UK, the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) has been found effective in managing CCD. 

Alongside pharmacological intervention, behaviour modification techniques redirect the dog's focus and reduce stress.

The Influence of the Environment


The environment in which a dog resides plays a pivotal role in shaping its behaviour. 

Factors such as space, social interaction, and mental stimulation contribute to a pet's well-being. 

In the UK, there's a growing emphasis on creating environments that promote healthy behaviours while mitigating problematic ones like tail-chasing.

a dog's tail, why do dogs chase their tails

Encouraging or Discouraging Tail-Chasing


A stimulating environment with ample opportunities for play and exploration can prevent boredom-induced behaviours such as tail-chasing. 

Conversely, restrictive environments devoid of enrichment or overly stressful can exacerbate such issues. 

In the UK, pet welfare organisations advocate for environments catering to dogs' physical and psychological needs, recognising that a well-balanced environment prevents behavioural problems.

UK's Perspective on Pet Environments


The UK is at the forefront of animal welfare, with legislation and guidelines encouraging responsible pet ownership. 

This includes providing pets with suitable environments that are safe, enriching, and conducive to their natural behaviours. 

The Animal Welfare Act 2006, for instance, outlines the duty of care towards animals, ensuring their needs are met and their environments are appropriate to prevent distress and behavioural issues.

In conclusion, understanding the psychology behind why dogs chase their tails and the influence of their environment is crucial. 

It allows us to identify potential problems and create better living conditions for our canine companions in the UK. 

Doing so enhances their quality of life and deepens the bond we share with them.

owner with small dog, why do dogs chase their tails

Small Breed-Specific Behaviours


Tail-chasing in dogs can often be observed across various breeds, but it is particularly prevalent among certain small breeds. 

This predisposition may be attributed to genetic factors, breed-specific traits, or hereditary behavioural tendencies. 

Studies in the UK have shown that breeds such as the Jack Russell Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier are more inclined to engage in this behaviour.

Case Studies in the UK


Research conducted in the UK has provided insights into breed-specific propensities for tail-chasing. 

For instance, a case study involving a group of Jack Russell Terriers revealed a strong correlation between high-energy levels and the frequency of tail-chasing episodes. 

Another study highlighted that West Highland White Terriers often chase their tails in response to environmental stressors or lack of stimulation.

dog owner with small dog, why do dogs chase their tails

The Role of Owners in the UK


The influence of dog owners on their pets' behaviour is significant. 

In the UK, where dog ownership is taken seriously, there is a strong emphasis on the owner's responsibility to positively shape their dog's behaviour.

Influencing Behaviour


Owners can influence their dogs' behaviour by consistently training them, providing mental and physical stimulation, and establishing a routine. 

Positive reinforcement techniques are particularly effective in managing behaviours like tail-chasing.

Tips for UK Owners:

Here are some tips for dog owners in the UK to manage tail-chasing:

- Engage your dog in regular exercise to expend excess energy.

- Provide mental stimulation through interactive toys and training sessions.

- To decrease anxiety-related behaviours, provide a quiet and stable atmosphere.

- Seek professional advice if tail-chasing becomes excessive or obsessive.

- Monitor your dog's behaviour and note any triggers that induce tail-chasing.

- Implement a routine that includes structured playtime and rest periods.

By understanding the breed-specific behaviours and their role as owners, individuals in the UK can effectively manage and reduce tail-chasing in their dogs, ensuring their pets have happier and healthier lives.

Tail-Chasing in Popular Culture


Tail-chasing is often depicted in media and folklore, particularly in the UK, as whimsical and amusing. 

In British folklore, it's common to find animals, especially dogs, portrayed as playfully chasing their tails. 

This portrayal can be seen in various forms of media, from classic literature to modern animations, often symbolising the futile pursuit of one's goals or the cyclical nature of certain situations.

The UK has a rich tradition of incorporating such behaviours into its folklore and storytelling, with tales passed down through generations. 

These stories often contain a moral lesson or serve as a cautionary tale, using tail-chasing imagery to convey messages about the human condition.

The Science of Circles


Scientific studies on tail-chasing in the UK have shed light on this behaviour from a different perspective. 

Research conducted by the Royal Veterinary College in Hertfordshire, UK, suggests that while tail-chasing is commonly seen as normal canine behaviour, it can sometimes be pathological. 

The study, "A Vicious Cycle: A Cross-Sectional Study of Canine Tail-Chasing and Human Responses to It," analysed tail-chasing behaviour in a large, non-clinical population of dogs. 

Approximately one-third of the dogs exhibited clinical signs, such as habitual or perseverative tail-chasing, often unrecognised by their owners.

This research highlights the importance of distinguishing between playful and compulsive tail-chasing, as the latter may require intervention. 

The study also points out the disparity between public perception and scientific understanding of this behaviour, emphasising the need for greater awareness and proper treatment when necessary.

Psychological Implications for the Furry Family


Long-term Psychological Effects of Tail-Chasing on Dogs: 

Tail-chasing in dogs can be normal behaviour, but when it becomes excessive, it may indicate a condition known as Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD), which is analogous to human Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). 

Studies have shown that compulsive tail-chasing can have various long-term psychological effects on dogs. 

These include:

  • Lowered Responsiveness: Dogs with compulsive tail-chasing behaviours may show lower responsiveness during bouts and display other compulsions more often than controls.

  • Stress and Anxiety: Tail-chasing may be a response to stress or anxiety, and dogs that chase their tails before stress-inducing events might be experiencing anxious feelings.

  • Impact on Daily Activities: In severe cases, compulsive behaviours can take over a dog's basic functioning, affecting their eating, sleeping, and enjoyment of daily activities.

UK Psychologists' Interpretation: UK psychologists suggest that compulsive behaviours such as tail-chasing, when performed to the extreme, can take over a dog's essential functions, including eating and sleeping. 

The behaviour is seen as a sign of CCD, and there is a growing understanding that dogs' and humans' minds might be more closely linked than previously thought. 

UK studies emphasise the importance of environmental factors, such as diet and living circumstances, in developing these behaviours.

a dog's tail, why do dogs chase their tails

Final Thoughts


Summarising Insights on Tail-Chasing: The insights gathered from various studies highlight that tail-chasing in dogs, while sometimes regular, can escalate into a compulsive behaviour indicative of underlying psychological issues. 

The behaviour is influenced by a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors.

Understanding Our Furry Family's Behaviour: Dogs' well-being must recognise and understand the signs of compulsive behaviour. 

It enables early diagnosis and management, which may considerably enhance the standard of life for our dog family members.

Encouraging Continued Exploration and Study in the UK: There is a need for continued exploration and study of canine behaviour in the UK. 

This research not only helps in treating affected dogs but also enhances our understanding of mental health disorders across species, providing valuable insights into human psychological conditions.

Pet owners and researchers alike need to continue observing and studying these behaviours to ensure the health and happiness of our canine companions.

faqs why do dogs chase their tails

Why do dogs chase their tails?

Dogs may chase their tails for various reasons, including boredomplayfulness, and medical issues.

Why do dogs chase their tails in circles?

Chasing in circles can be a form of self-amusement and exercise, especially in puppies exploring their environment and bodies.

Why do dogs chase their tails in the UK?

In the UK, as elsewhere, tail-chasing can signify boredom or lack of stimulation, and owners are advised to ensure their dogs have enough physical and mental exercise.

Why do dogs chase their tails psychology?

From a psychological perspective, tail-chasing can sometimes be a manifestation of Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD). This is comparable to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in people.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for veterinary advice. For specific veterinary dog health advice, contact a veterinary pet healthcare provider.

At Mary Puppins,  we prioritise your cherished pets' well-being, offering a haven of comfort and care during their stay.

Our commitment is to ensure your small breed dogs are treated like family, receiving top-notch attention and care.

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mary puppins why do dogs chase their tails

why do dogs chase their tails

mary puppins why do dogs chase their tails

Kate Phillips, Chief Editor

BSc (Hons), MSc

Kate is the UK's very own Mary Puppins, a professional Dog Nanny, an expert in small breed dogs and a pet parent to her own beloved small dogs.

With over 30 years' experience and successfully helping high profile celebrity pet parents raise their furry families,

Kate shares her top tips with you.

Kate guides readers on small dog breeds, dog health, dog training, dog nutrition, dog food, dog walks, dog accessories, dog enrichment, rescue dogs, dog behaviour, dog grooming and the best products for dog mums and dog dads to create the ultimate lifestyle for their small dogs.



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