Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tail Chasing in Dogs

Have you ever felt you were "chasing your own tail"? The expression, of course, is derived from the seemingly pointless activity that dogs engage in every now and again.

Why do dogs do it? In the last 10 years, tail chasing has been regarded as a symptom of a compulsive disorder, much like compulsive self-licking. This implies that the dog has some genetic predisposition toward this behavior when in situations of anxiety or conflict.

Tail chasing tends to be confined to certain breeds, which is evidence in support of a genetic predisposition. One study showed that the vast majority of tail-chasing dogs were of bull terrier or
German shepherd lineage.

Conflict underlies tail chasing in dogs. Conflict can take the form of confinement, social isolation, adversarial situations with people or other animals, and lack of opportunity to perform species-typical behavior.

Tail chasing may begin as a "displacement behavior." The dog finds himself in some dilemma he can't resolve, and displaces his anxiety into a behavior that has nothing to do with the problem. Tail chasing is believed to derive from dogs' natural predatory instincts. They may see their tail as something that isn't part of them, and something worth chasing and catching. Chasing the tail may provide dogs some relief from their conflict because it fills a behavioral vacuum.

Dogs exhibiting compulsive tail chasing often have other compulsive behaviors. For example, bull terriers may also pace in wide circles or show compulsive behavior towards objects such as tennis balls.

Affected German shepherds often engage in compulsive pacing and circling behavior, too, including running in large figure eights. A tail chaser that is physically prevented from tail chasing is likely to displace into some other repetitive compulsive behavior.

Alice England


Art and Sew Forth said...

I never would have thought anything of it! I had many shepherds, but no tail chasers.

Giupetto and Gianna Tails said...

Does this mean we need to give all those tail chasers jobs to do?
What happens if they catch thier tail?