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
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
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.