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Some occasional tail chasing can be harmless, though — especially in young puppies who are still learning about their bodies — while excessive tail biting is almost always a problem you need to address. Pay particular attention if the compulsive behavior is frequent and intense.
Tail biting and tail chasing often overlap with each other. Many dogs who chase their tails do so because they’re trying to catch it in order to chew on an itch or irritated patch of skin!
Some occasional tail chasing can be harmless, though — especially in young puppies who are still learning about their bodies — while excessive tail biting is almost always a problem you need to address. Pay particular attention if the chewing behavior is frequent and intense.
Tail chewing has multiple potential causes. Here are some of the most common culprits if you catch your canine biting their own hind end.
One of the best ways a canine has to scratch an itch? Using their teeth! Your dog might look like they’re trying to eat their own tail when they’re really trying their hardest to alleviate physical discomfort. This might be caused by:
Allergies in dogs can cause itching due to an overactive immune response to certain substances (commonly called allergens). When a dog comes into contact with an allergen — such as pollen, dust mites, or flea saliva for environmental allergies or some type of protein for a food allergy — their immune system reacts as if it were a threat. This allergic reaction triggers the release of chemicals in the body that lead to inflammation and itching.
Hot spots, also known as acute moist dermatitis, are a specific type of skin irritation that can cause intense itching in dogs. Hot spots are typically localized areas of inflamed, infected, and moist skin. While allergies can sometimes contribute to the development of hot spots, they can have other underlying causes as well.
Matted hair can also make your dog uncomfortable around their tail. Too much undercoat can also contribute to hot spots when your pup's skin isn't able to breathe.
Some pests (like flea bites and ticks on their skin or intestinal parasites in their digestive tracts) along with allergies (to the environment or to foods) can make your pet itchy.
If your dog tries to bite their own tail, it could also be possible that their anal glands are inflamed or irritated and they're trying to express them.
If you catch your dog chewing on their tail, hind end, or any other part of their body, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your veterinarian to address any medical issues, like secondary infections, at play. A full checkup never hurts, especially when you’re not sure what to make of a new behavior you’re noticing.
Boredom is one of the most common negative motivations for tail biting and chasing in adult dogs. Insufficient physical activity and mental stimulation can result in a slew of behavioral problems in our pets. Destructive behaviors like chewing on household objects are most common, but biting their own body parts is also on the list. It’s a way to release pent-up energy that doesn’t require any external input (like toys or environmental distractions).
When dogs are stressed, they may engage in self-directed behaviors as a way to cope or alleviate their anxiety. Tail-biting can be a self-soothing mechanism for some dogs — the act of biting or chasing their own tail can provide temporary distraction or relief from their stress or discomfort. This can quickly turn into a compulsive behavior if left untreated (much like other repetitive behaviors such as chewing on household objects).
If your dog bites their tail to the point of bleeding, has created a sensitive spot by tearing out fur, or even appears to have injured one of their tail bones, a vet visit is in order. Your veterinarian will be able to help you clean the area and assess whether you need a more robust bandage or even a round of antibiotics (oral medication or some topical creams) to clear up potential infection. Remember: The presence of blood is never something to take lightly.
The best way to keep your dog from biting their tail? Provide them with appropriate fulfillment and address any underlying health or behavioral problems!
If you think your dog’s tail biting is a problem — it’s disrupting their daily activities, causing injury, or making you worried that something deeper is wrong — it’s a good idea to revisit the causes listed above and try to figure out what might be going on.
As mentioned above when talking about potential itchiness, it’s a particularly good idea to visit your veterinarian — they can help you identify and treat any acute medical conditions that might be contributing to your furry companion’s tail biting behavior. Sometimes preventative medications can do wonders for things like chronic skin infections, allergic reactions, and more.
If your dog is physically healthy but still biting their tail excessively, consider if they get enough enrichment. Could they be bored or looking for your attention? If so, make an effort to engage in more fulfilling activities with them. Our Comprehensive Guide to Enrichment Activities compiles everything you need to know!
If you’re worried about your dog’s mental health or struggling to work through their tail biting on your own, reach out to a force free trainer. They’re here to help! A dog professional will be able to develop an individualized treatment plan to get you and your pup back on the right track.
There is so much misinformation out there, we want to make sure we only provide the highest quality information to our community. We have all of our articles reviewed by qualified, positive-only trainers.
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