Why does a dog chase its tail

Why do dogs chase their own tails?

When shepherd dog Luna is constantly chasing her own tail and bull terrier Rocco snaps at invisible flies, it may be a lovable quirk for the dog owner. But now researchers have found that such behavior can also be an expression of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

"Some of these compulsive behaviors are common in some dog breeds, suggesting genetic causes," said Professor and study director Hannes Lohi of the University of Helsinki. 368 dog owners were interviewed. More than half of the dogs repeatedly chased their own tails, the rest of the dogs did not and served as a control group. Blood tests were also performed on the sheepdogs and bull terriers (bull terriers, miniature bull terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers) that took part in the study.

Chasing the tail - an obsessive-compulsive disorder

The scientists suspect similar processes behind animal behavior as in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Both dogs and humans develop these repetitive behaviors at a young age - before sexual maturity. Some dogs turned their laps very seldom and then only briefly, while others pursued their own tails several times a day. Littermates often showed similar behavioral patterns. "The development of this disorder could be based on similar biological processes," says Lohi.

Unlike people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, the affected dogs do not try to avoid and suppress their behavior. "The stereotypical and repetitive behavior of dogs that chase their own tail is more like an autistic disorder," says Perminder Sachdev, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

Behavioral training helps

If dogs only rarely tend to chase their tails, this could also be the result of physical and mental underload. If the behavior is particularly pronounced, this more likely indicates a stress-related behavioral disorder. In no case should a dog be punished for chasing its tail and spinning wildly in circles. Punishment increases stress, and behavior gets worse. Targeted behavior training as well as a lot of time and patience are the best medicine. If necessary, the veterinarian or animal psychologist can also support the therapy with special products.