View Full Version : Just out of curiosity....

17th October 2006, 03:24 AM
Does anyone else's cav chase their tail? It is Spencer's #1 hobby. Even when he catches it, he still isn't satisfied! He just keeps spinning with his tail in his mouth! :roll: I have asked a couple of breeders if any of their dogs do it, and their answers were no. Is my dog the only reject that does this???

I will have to post a vid of him. It's pretty hilarious. :lol:

17th October 2006, 03:35 AM
brady does sometimes when he realizes that it's there he'll try to attack it, but he doesn't really go crazy for it. my boyfriends parents dog (jake russel) catches his and then spins around really slow while chewing it. and he's smart because to catch it he knows he has to prop himself up against a wall. it's pretty funny to watch but because of his actions, he hardly ever has any hair at the end of his tail

17th October 2006, 11:58 AM
i think in allmy time ive had my dogs ...they have at the most only chased their tails about 3 times....they arent big on the tail chasing ..but lots of my friends dogs chase their tail around and around...i dont think its anything to worry about - im pretty sure its normal...and funny too!

Cathy Moon
17th October 2006, 12:06 PM
Have you talked to the vet about Spencer's tail chasing? If he's doing it that often, there may be an underlying problem - wouldn't hurt to have him looked at. :flwr:

17th October 2006, 12:14 PM
I agree with Cathy. The vet might have some idea. But then sometimes it can just become a bad habit. Worth a checkup I think.

17th October 2006, 01:32 PM
Trust me, when we are at the vet and he knows the worst is over and things are wrapping up, he gets down off the examination table and goes into his best rendition of a tornado. The vet has seen him do this many times, and he says it is just a bad habit. You can actually tell he is happy when he is doing it!

So yes, the vet knows about it and says there is nothing to worry about. He is just a funny boy! :sl*p:

17th October 2006, 03:02 PM
Yep, Riley chases his tail too. :roll: He has done it since he was about 3 mths old. Usually he does it when he is bored and can't get to his toys (in another room), sometimes i think he does it to get my attention. I was told to not let him make a habit of chasing his tail, so whenever i catch him doing it, i distract him with a sound or a toy. (basically he gets my attention). Of course now i may have created a situation where he does it in front of me on purpose. :sl*p: Ahhh, the joy of young dogs. :fool:

17th October 2006, 05:38 PM
Hmmm, I think I'd want to talk to another vet for a second opinion. Really frantic tail chasing can be more than a bad habit -- I'd be discouraging it by not scolding but either totsally ignoring (perhaps your amusement at it so far has reinforced it for him as desireable behaviour) or refocusing his attention to something else and if this proves impossible you really do want to talk to someone who can do a more thorough consideration of why he's doing this.

More info from a vet school page, http://www.usask.ca/wcvm/herdmed/applied-ethology/behaviourproblems/tailchase.html:

Tail Chasing in Dogs

Tail chasing, at first glance, may appear to be a normal component of play behaviour in dogs. Problems arise when such behaviour becomes excessive and the dog injures itself during the activity and when the dog cannot be distracted for other activities. Many would define tail chasing, or whirling, as a stereotypic behavior. Stereotypic behavior can be defined as a ritualistic, repetitive, constant sequence of movements appearing to serve no obvious function. Such behavior is often found in cases where animals are confined and where their behavior is restricted, but can be present in ordinary environments, as well. Tail chasing has also been known to be more common in certain breeds, such as Bull Terriers, indicating this behavior may be hereditary in some cases.

Why Does Tail Chasing Occur?

The primary causes of excessive tail chasing often involve aspects of learned behavior or medical problems or both.

Behavioral causes: Attention-seeking, Boredom, Anxiety

Tail chasing and other stereotypic behaviors may be a result of operant conditioning, a process by which a behavior is affected by its consequences and an association is made between a stimulus and a response. Because dogs are social animals, attention from the owner is often a positive reinforcer causing an increase in the frequency of the performed behavior whether the owner intends this or not. Even adversive attention may act as a positive reinforcer of the behavior, especially when the animal receives little owner attention in the first place. In this case, any attention the dog receives is highly rewarding. This type of behavior is known as "attention-seeking behavior".

Boredom is another postulated cause of some stereotypies, but an unlikely one. A diagnosis of boredom as a cause of stereotypic behaviour can be incorrectly assumed. In fact the animal may simply have a greater need for aerobic exercise and will cease energy consuming stereotypic behaviour when activity is normal. It is not boredom per se that is the problem, but lack of exercise.

In addition, some dogs with anxiety may chase their tail as well. This anxiety may be in response to some sort of stimulus or it may be nonspecific. Sometimes if a dog has had a previous injury to an extremity, it may start chasing that region when it becomes aware of it. Such dogs are usually neurologically normal.

Medical causes: Neurological, Physical Injury/Irritation

In addition to the behavioral conditions mentioned above, neurological conditions can also cause behaviors such as whirling. Severe tail chasing has been attributed to psychomotor epilepsy and sometimes described as a seizure-related problem. There is also evidence that stereotyped behavior depends upon the dopamine systems involved in the control of movement. Dopamine turnover is increased in animals with stereotypies. This becomes important when drug treatment is to be considered. As well, there is a possibility that these behaviors may cause a release of endogenous opioids which stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain and protect the animal from perception of pain in more severe cases involving self-mutilation. In Bull Terriers, a breed that has been historically associated with dog fighting, it has been speculated that there may be a reduced pain perception, genetically passed on as an adaptation from the fighting generations. (Additional information on these neurological theories are discussed in the references cited at the end of this article).

A variety of superficial or peripheral conditions involving pain, irritation, or other sensations in the tail or hindquarters may also trigger tail chasing. Such conditions normally, however not exculsively, involve injury or disease to the skin and/or peripheral nervous system.

How Can Tail Chasing be Diagnosed and Treated?

Certain information will be required to assess the severity of the problem and help determine whether the tail chasing is learned or medical in origin. As an owner, you should keep track of the behavior and be able to describe details to a veterinarian including: duration, frequency, intensity of the behavior, as well as the dogs history and any other known cases in closely related dogs. Treating this problem can be handled through different methods depending on the suspected cause of the problem.

If you are certain the behaviour has been learned (perhaps it was inadvertently reinforced or rewarded by laughter or attention), then the treatment would involve removing the reinforcer. In this case the reward such as attention (praise or punishment) should immediately stop and be withheld anytime the dog tail chases. Initially the dog may increase the intensity of tail chasing to gain attention or gain the reward that had previously been given. It is important not to reward the behaviour. This is a critical stage leading to the extinction of the activity. It is important that all family members understand that non-reinforcement is vital and the tail chasing must be ignored at all costs. Any kind of attention or punishment will only escalate the problem.

Counterconditioning may also be an effective treatment for anxiety by again training the dog to associate an acceptable behavior with the stimulus rather than chasing its tail. In counterconditioning you would provide a reward or give attention to the dog when it is not tail chasing.

Neurological problems are best treated with medication. Studies have shown that some stereotypies are responsive to dopamine antagonists and to opiate receptor blockers. Various neurological conditions, such as psychomotor epiliepsy, can be ruled out or confirmed by observing the response to drug treatments.

Drug therapy in combination with behavior therapies have been proven to be effective in treating stereotypies including tail chasing. A veterinarian or behavioural consultant can provide more information on drug treatment as well.

Stereotypies generally are most responsive if they are treated during an early stage of development. The best results are obtained by identifying and removing the cause of the conflict, using an appropriate drug and counterconditioning. In some extreme cases tail chasing may be impossible to prevent or cure. The best prevention is to give your dog adequate attention and exercise, a suitable environment and carefully monitor its activities.

Brown, S.A., S. Crowell-Davis, T. Malcom, et al. Naloxone-responsive compulsive tail chasing in a dog. J.A.V.M.A. 1987; 190:884-886.
Crowell-Davis, S. Tail Chasing in Dogs. In Kirk, R.W. ed. Current Veterinary Therapy XI. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1991; 995-997.
Luescher, U.A., McKeown, D.B., Halip, J. Stereotypic or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders in Dogs and Cats. Vet Clin N Amer Small Anim Pract 1991; 21: 401-413.
Overall, K.L. Recognition, Diagnosis, and Management of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders. Canine Practice. 1992; 17: 40 -44.

Cathy Moon
17th October 2006, 05:39 PM
That's a good idea to distract him from tail chasing. :thmbsup:

If the tail chasing is not due to a medical problem, I would try to find something interesting to regularly engage the dog's attention and keep him occupied for awhile on a daily basis. Getting exercise by walking, puzzle toys, playing fetch, playing with other dogs, agility, or any kind of fun, positive training.

I would also in a very low key way try to discourage the dog from tail chasing, or any other kind of obsession such as humping. Too much attention could cause the behavior to worsen, though, so it's always better to distract them with a fun activity.

Cathy Moon
17th October 2006, 05:43 PM
Wow, Karlin, I think we were hitting the submit button at the same time.

Great article! :xctly: the right information!