4 min read


Why Do German Shepherds Chase Their Tails



4 min read


Why Do German Shepherds Chase Their Tails




Tail chasing is a cute puppy behavior and when you see the new pup find his tail for the first time and try to catch it, you will be forced to laugh at his antics. However, if this cute puppy behavior persists, you may no longer find it amusing. The German Shepherd breed tends to fall into the group of dogs that form an obsessive behavior trait of tail chasing. There are several reasons for this obsessive behavior and ways to distract the dog in an attempt to change the behavior. 

The first and probably most difficult to modify is a predisposition to tail chasing through family breed lines. Dogs can inherit this form of behavior. An investigation into parental behavior would always shed some light on the background of the dog you have. Stress and a response to an anxious moment can lead to tail chasing as a nervous behavior. German Shepherds find being confined in a small space very stressful and would turn to tail chasing in this situation. Relieving the anxiety in your dog, through exercise, is a good starting point. 

The Root of the Behavior

Tail chasing is an exhausting behavior and watching your dog caught up in this repetitive circling is most concerning. If it is possible you should do thorough checks on your dog’s background to see if the behavior was genetic and passed on to your member of the litter. The next avenue to explore is the environment you are offering to the German Shepherd. He needs space and activity. The German Shepherd is an intelligent breed and tail chasing would be the result of stress or lack of exercise and stimulation. There is evidence to show through observations that tail chasing can become very compulsive especially in German Shepherds. The circles can be wider and even extend to a figure of eight. This behavior can start as early as three to six months. When the behavior is perceived to be over the puppy exploring stage, then it is time to act. Puppies always respond well to puppy training and socializing. Guidance in these classes will help you, as the new parent, to find ways of distracting your tail chasing pup. 

German Shepherds are working dogs and engaging them in ‘work’ is a good idea. There are great opportunities to join obedience classes and agility. The German Shepherd needs lots of mental and physical activity. Noticing a ‘look’ in their eye, that signals the pursuit of obsessive behavior, can be helpful. This observation will show you when to intervene with a distraction and interrupt the tail chaser before he gets going. Anxiety could also be a root cause and therefore it is important not to shout at your German Shepherd because this will aggravate his stress levels. Boredom is often the cause of the obsessive behavior. The German Shepherd will need a great deal of interaction with you to keep his need to be stimulated satisfied. German Shepherds, who chase their tails obsessively, have been known to injure themselves by biting and attacking their tails. Occasionally this has led to having an injured tail amputated as a way of solving the problem. 

Need advice about your pet's health?

Get answers fast from a veterinary professional 24/7 in the Wag! App.

Get Vet Chat

Encouraging the Behavior

It is always distressing to see a dog involved in destructive behavior like tail chasing. A visit to a vet or behavior specialist would be a good option if you feel your dog is becoming obsessively caught up in this behavior. There may be other underlying health reasons that could help solve the problem easily. Owners of German Shepherds should consider physical irritations of the tail end via fleas or worms. The German Shepherd that chases his tail despite having exercises and lots of attention could have a problem with swollen anal glands. Tail chasing is not a normal behavior, and if it becomes an obsession it is very difficult to break the cycle and convince your dog that other ways of having exercise are far better. 

The German Shepherd’s mind will be made up and unless his circumstances can change, and his energy levels are satisfied, he is going to continue to tail chase. The owner of a German Shepherd should know beforehand that this breed of dog needs attention and exercise and ‘work’ to do. The German Shepherd is loyal and intelligent and often seeks one special person to befriend. A very close relationship can develop between these dogs and their owners. If their needs are not met, the German Shepherd and his sensitive nature can become focused on disturbing obsessive behavior. 

Other Solutions and Considerations

The tail chasing German Shepherd will probably need some long-term training, positive intervention, and reinforcement for good behavior, to try and break the habit. It is most likely that you will see the evidence of this behavior early on with your new German Shepherd. The German Shepherd rescue dog may have already learned the behavior and it will take time and patience to successfully train him out of this unfortunate habit. You will know the signs to look for and making an early start on training and exercise will always be beneficial to the eager German Shepherd. He is a breed of dog that likes to please you, but his predisposition to this behavior makes him far more vulnerable than other breeds of dog. Patience, good timing for a distraction, care, and attention will never go amiss.


Owning a dog that chases his tail is a challenge. You feel dizzy watching him go around and around. It is easy to understand the idiom ‘chasing your tail!’ A pointless exercise that gets you nowhere. The German Shepherd is destined for greater things. He is an excellent police dog and guide dog. A hero, rescued in World War I, he became a television star, known as Rin Tin Tin. He was brave and agile. No tail chasing for this hero. A member of ‘Paw enforcement’ he proved himself to be a hero to dog lovers and to GSD fans. 

By a Rhodesian Ridgeback lover Christina Wither

Published: 04/25/2018, edited: 01/30/2020

What do you think?

Wag! Specialist
Need to upgrade your pet's leash?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.