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Learn Why Your Dog Chases His Tail

Aug 17, 2007
Lots of dogs chase their tails when they've got energy and excitement that they don't know how to handle. For some dogs, the big event is going outside after being cooped up all day.

Getting out of the tub is always exciting as well. And the sight of a leash is a sure-fire call to action.

For some dogs, chasing their tails is something to do when they really don't know what to do. It's like people who bite their nails, tap on a desk, or do some other physical action subconsciously.

Dogs roll over and over on their backs. They jump up on their hind legs. They run around in circles and bark. These are all normal outlets for energy and excitement, and dogs do them all of the time.

Tail chasing is less common. Researchers are not sure why dogs do it, but they suspect it may have something to do with their hunting pasts.

Dogs originally got their meals by hunting, usually small prey such as rabbits. Their brains and eyes are wired in such a way that they're intensely aware of quick movements.

It's possible that some dogs catch a glimpse of their tails, get excited, and, without thinking about it, try to catch the pesky things. They rarely succeed, of course. So they keep trying.

We don't have any reason to believe that dogs really think their tails are prey to be captured. But that basic instinct may be what gets them started.

Dogs That Chase Their Tails Just To Show Off

Even if dogs initially see their tails as bushy little squirrels, it shouldn't take them long to realize their mistake.

Yet some dogs keep chasing - not just once or twice, but all the time. They may simply think it's fun, especially when the people they live with think it's fun too.

Tail chasing is pretty cute when dogs first do it, and a lot of people make a big fuss over it. And dogs happen to enjoy an appreciative audience. When they discover that something gets them a lot of attention, they'll keep doing it.

But this has a downside. Like actors who are always "on," some dogs get such a thrill from performing that they keep doing it even when the curtain is down. Tail chasing is hard work,
and they run themselves ragged until they collapse in a panting heap on the floor.

Then they get up and do it again.
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