Tail-chasing in dogs might seem to be a common and relatively benign factor of playful behaviour in dogs. But when done in excess, the primary causes of tail chasing often involve elements of learned behaviour or medical problems or possibly both. Dogs that were separated too early from their mothers or had poor care from their mother, also displayed tail chasing.
Dogs most likely to chase their own tails were generally more timid and afraid of loud noises. Boredom is another suggested cause of some compulsive behaviour such as tail-chasing, but an improbable one. A more likely explanation the lack of exercise.
Providing nervous dogs with a gratifying alternative during stressful situations is a primary way of preventing the development of unhealthy compulsive behaviour, such as tail-chasing. A large marrowbone or stuffed toy provides the ideal satisfying; long-lasting activity that assists in forming a positive association with whatever situation might be causing it stress.
In treating a dog with a compulsive condition like tail chasing, one would provide a reward or give positive attention to the dog when it is not tail chasing. Drug therapy, in combination with
behaviour therapy, has been proven to be effective in treating compulsive behaviour, including tail chasing. A veterinarian can provide more information on drug treatment as well.
Compulsive behaviour in dogs is best treated in the early stages of a dog’s development. The best results are often achieved by removing the cause of the problem behaviour. In some extreme cases tail chasing may be impossible to prevent or cure. The best prevention is to give the dog adequate attention and exercise, a suitable environment and carefully monitor its activities.