Is it normal for my dog to bite his tail?
You've noticed this behavior in your dog several times: he suddenly starts trying to grab his tail, circling and biting it. How can you explain this behavior? Is it normal?
Tail chasing and biting it is a behavior that can be either harmless and worrisome at the same time. Let's find out together when this practice is worrisome.
Situations where this behaviour is not a cause for concern
Let's start with situations where a dog biting his tail is not a concern.
Your puppy plays and discovers his body
If your dog is still young – less than 6 to 8 months – don't worry, it's completely normal for a puppy to bite his tail. This is because he's not fully aware of his body and it's a game for him. This behavior tends to gradually diminish and disappear as the puppy reaches adulthood.
Your dog wants to get your attention
This behavior can sometimes continue into adulthood if you showed an interest in the game when your dog was a puppy. If he realized that his behavior made you laugh or want to start playing with him, he may tend to adopt it to trigger a reaction in you. This may be a way of calling you to play with him.
If you want your dog to stop this behavior – especially to identify a problem (see next points) – you can simply choose to ignore him when he starts chasing his tail. He will have a tendency to stop.
Situations where this behavior may alert you
Now let's look at situations where this behavior can be worrisome.
An indicator of stress
For some dogs that are not comfortable in their own skin, biting their tail is an indicator of the stress they are experiencing. While some dogs will lick their paws, bark or chew, others will actually prefer to walk around in circles after their tail.
Here, biting his tail is an indicator of your dog's negative state and you should intervene to calm him down. Several solutions can be considered:
- Work on your dog's stress with toys or tranquilizers such as Bach flowers.
- Involve a canine behaviorist who can help you find solutions.
A genetic problem
In some cases, it has been shown that this stressful behavior may be genetic. For example, Bull Terriers and German Shepherds seem to be breeds more affected by this phenomenon.
In this case, the disorder often appears at the dog's puberty – when it stops or subsides in other dogs. The behavior may become more pronounced as the dog gets older. He can even go so far as biting his own tail to the extent of self-mutilation.
It is then recommended to go and see a canine behaviorist or a veterinarian who can offer tips or even anxiolytic treatments to calm your dog.
Localized discomfort or itching
Finally, a dog that bites his tail may be suffering from pain, itching, lesions or irritation in the tail or hindquarters area. You will easily notice the reason of this behaviour if your dog calms down as soon as you scratch him.
Our advice: accompany your pet to the vet, he will certainly be able to find the causes of your dog's discomfort. There can be many reasons: food allergy or intolerance, scratch, insect or tick bite… and so on!
Passionate about dogs since I was a child, I adopted my dog from a shelter 4 years ago. Thanks to her, I learned many things: the most adapted food, education, how to welcome a dog… I keep on discovering new things and share them with you here!