Why does a dog go around in circles and run after its tail?


Spinning around to catch its tail can be considered a game … as long as the dog only adopts this attitude every now and then. On the other hand, we can worry about it when the dog indulges in this ritual obsessively because it can represent a problem. There are several reasons that can explain it, and to decipher this strange behavior – which sometimes leads to a smile – it is useful to spot in which particular situations the dog turns in circles and runs after its tail.

The different reasons

This astonishing behavior may concern puppies like the adult dogs, males and females. We can consider that it is normal when the animal has fun, quite simply and that the phenomenon remains rare. But it can have many other causes.

  • He tries to get the attention of his master or another person around him when he is bored and wants someone to take care of him,
  • He wishes to receive a treat,
  • He expresses a feeling of intense joy or is overexcited, for example, when he understands that he is going for a walk.
  • Psychomotor epilepsy due to dysfunction of the central nervous system.

If the animal bites its tail too frequently out of boredom, its owner should stimulate it through play or outdoor activities. He can also turn to a dog club to show his dog the Agility course, for example.

Dog’s tail: a substitute element

The dog may also want to run after its tail when it has just been argued by its owner or has been punished. Punishment is an aversive stimulus that results in emotional charge in dogs. His tail then becomes a substitution element : he discharges his energy by trying to catch it, even to attack it. He thus tries to free himself from an anxiety-provoking situation.

There again, the substitution behavior is not alarming as long as it remains episodic, and can even be positive since it is then a kind of safety valve. However, a dog that is too often punished is plagued by frustration which makes him more and more aggressive. He ends up turning this aggression against himself to the point of self-harm.

Dog running after its tail: when to consult?

It is important to determine if the dog is suffering from a medical or behavioral problem as it can be either. To find out more, you have to look in which context he adopts this ritual and gives as many indications as possible to an animal behavior professional. It is very important to identify the exact cause in order to find the necessary solution. This is the reason why one should never take lightly the fact that a dog turns in circles to run after its tail, especially if it self-injures. A consultation with the veterinarian is absolutely necessary when this behavior is frequent, even obsessive.

From health problems at the origin of this attitude, one can for example suspect:

  • Pains,
  • Blocked anal glands,
  • A condition due to an injury / bite that may have resulted in injury to a nerve,
  • Dermatitis or irritation in the hindquarters or only the tail. This can be the seat of itching due to the presence of fleas or other parasites. The animal cannot scratch itself with its paws tries to do it with its teeth, but it is difficult for it to control this part of its anatomy… This can be very annoying for the animal and it is not uncommon that he then becomes aggressive towards his own tail.

It is therefore no longer a question of a game or a simple way to attract attention. But when this behavior is repeated over and over again, it may also be because the dog suffers from an obsessive neurosis which of course requires treatment.