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How to Stop Your Dog From Chasing His or Her Tail

| Updated September 26, 2017

Tail chasing is a compulsive behavior that typically signals a problem. Dogs who chase their tails often do so from anxiety, overexcitement, boredom or an underlying medical problem. Some dogs, such as German shepherds and bull terriers, are more prone to tail-chasing behavior. If tail chasing is a regular part of your dog’s day, you can take steps to help your dog stop.

Take Your Dog to the Vet

You must first rule out an underlying medical reason for the tail chasing. Any behavioral training will be to no avail if the problem is an untreated medical condition. Epilepsy or another neurological condition could be the cause, as could pain in the tail area or another medical illness. Bring your dog to a veterinarian’s office, preferably one who has experience diagnosing tail-chasing behavior.

Distract the Dog

As soon as you see your dog start to chase his tail, distract him with a toy, food or attention to get him to stop. When your dog isn’t in the stressed state of tail chasing, teach him commands, such as sit or lie down. You also can teach a trick, such as shake. Once your dog knows the commands, you can use them when your dog starts tail chasing. The idea is to get your dog to do something besides chasing his tail.

Provide Activities for Your Dog

Dogs who get plenty of physical and mental exercise are often too tired to engage in tail-chasing behavior. Some activities to consider include the following:

  • Daily walks
  • Vigorous exercise, such as swimming or running
  • Play, such as fetch or tug of war
  • Visits to the dog park (if your dog gets along with other dogs)
  • Hunting for food -- a game you play by hiding food around the house that he must find
  • Agility sports

All those activities provide positive outlets for your dog, which serve as substitutes for the tail chasing.

Retrain Your Dog

If your dog is a tail chaser because he was at one time rewarded every time he did it, you need to retrain him. Many people don’t know that tail chasing is bad for dogs, according to The Merck Veterinary Manual. This compulsive behavior, which, if allowed to become more frequent, can interfere with a dog’s daily life.

Some people might think tail chasing is funny and laugh and give attention when they see a dog doing it. They might even give a treat to further encourage the behavior. You need to retrain such a dog by doing the opposite. Do not react to or reward the behavior; simply ignore it or leave the room. As soon as the dog stops the tail chasing, give attention and treats.