Tail Chasing

Tail chasing can develop into a harmful habit, with some dogs known to mutilate their genitals during the persuit. For this reason, tail chasing is just not entertainment for the dog - and often the owner - but a serious problem. Dr Robert Holmes, a veterinarian and animal behaviourist, told an Australian conference. "Something should be done to break the habit straight away." said Dr Holmes.

Dr Holmes said that in extreme cases, tail chasing resulted in physical damage or the habit becoming obsessive. He said that in the worse case he had seen, a tail chaser had to be put down after it started mutilating its genitals.

In these sorts of cases the dogs grab hold of their tails, then turn their attention to other things in the area - in this case the undercarriage. In other cases dogs have been known to pin their tails against walls or lie on their backs to enable them to bite their tails. The chase is part of their natural predatory aggression and may finish with growling, biting or injury to themselves.

Identifying the cause of the habit is the first step in breaking the habit. While boredom was the most common cause of tail chasing, there were eight other possible causes. Owners often report that it started suddenly but they didn't worry about it, and often thought it amusing or just one of those things dogs did.

Apart from boredom and breeding, other predisposing factors could be: Frustration or conflict; tail trauma; owner reinforcement; flea allergy dermatitus, annal sacculitis; cuada equina syndrome or stimulent drugs. An example of owner reinforcement, was where the owner held, stroked or verbally soothed the dog to stop circling.

It may be necessary to restrict the dog's view of it's tail with an Elizabethan collar or bucket over the head. Sedation of the animal through drugs may also be necessary.

After a month of complete suppression of tail chasing, the short term prevention measure can be steadily removed. Drug treatment should be reduced over a week period and the bucket or collar could be taken off under strict supervision at the time of the day tail chasing was least likely. I f the tail chasing resumed, then the bucket or Elizabethan collar should be resumed for another month.

Submitted by Wooramun Jack

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