Snips And Snails, And Puppy Dogs’ Tails
During COVID lockdown, we all probably have indulged in chasing our tails, but what does it mean when your dog chases its own tail?
For most dogs, tail-chasing is simply a rite of puppyhood. But when it continues or starts in adulthood, that can be a serious problem.
Puppies love to explore. It’s a way for them to have fun and expend some energy. They may not even realize that their tail is actually a part of their body, but see it as a toy. It can also be a sign of boredom. If a dog is housebound for weeks on end (does that sound familiar?) chasing the moving thing on the end of your body seems like a lot of fun. Most people and children will find this pretty funny and seeing that dogs are intelligent creatures, they can start doing this to please their ‘hooman’ family members. This results in attention-seeking behaviour. The key to remedying this type of tail chasing is counterintuitive. Owners should ignore the dog while he is actually running in circles and praise him when he isn’t. Telling our pet off won’t help because remember: “any attention is better than nothing” to them alot of the time.
We call this treatment process “extinction.” Put simply, bad behaviour is ignored while good behaviour is rewarded. Where once the owner would draw attention to the unwanted behaviour, we want you now ignore that behaviour completely. All members of the family must be involved, since non-compliance by even one family member can frustrate all attempts at success. Try to identify the trigger for tail chasing. Then try to redirect the behaviour with an alternative activity eg ball playing. Be careful that your dog doesn’t see this as a reward for chasing its tail
Increased attention when tail-chasing does not occur should be the rule. If these methods fail, behaviour modification drugs for obsessive-compulsive may be necessary.
There are different reasons why dogs will start to chase their tails. Like mentioned above boredom, but also because of separation anxieties or being overexcited or having been teased by tucking their tails. Regardless of why they start, the issue gets worse when they catch their tails. This will lead to self-trauma and these types of injuries are very hard to heal. There are also medical reasons why your pet is chasing its tail. Some times it can be as simple as a full or painful anal sac. This is a not-so-pleasant but an easy problem to fix. And sometimes it can be a sign of a partial seizure (psychomotor epilepsy). This means it is not a full-blown seizure, but only a partial one, affecting primarily behaviour. This type of problem responds usually well to drug therapy.
Bottom Line: Don’t encourage tail chasing and seek help before it becomes a problem.
Question, there in the back?
Oh, you are asking about amputating the tail? No that is not a solution because the dog will still chase the stump and can be an unnecessary and potentially harmful procedure.
Another question? Well, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.