How to Train Your Dog to Stop Chasing His Tail

Medium
1-2 Months
Behavior

Introduction

So, your pup seems to be unable to stop himself from chasing his tail. It seems like every time you turn around, your pup is spinning in circles biting at his tail and simply saying "Stop it!" is having absolutely no effect. He could be chasing his tail out of boredom or simply because he is overcome with excitement. There are even a few medical conditions that can cause him to chase his tail, such as dry skin, a flea infestation, or an injury that itches as it heals.

Depending on the training method you choose, you need to catch the behavior as soon as it starts, or you may be too late for him to correct his behavior. The good news is that with a little practice, your pup can be taught that chasing his tail is not an acceptable behavior. 

Defining Tasks

The first thing you need to do is STOP laughing when you see your pup chasing his tail. What might seem silly to you is serious business to your dog, and if you keep laughing at him, you are simply reinforcing this behavior. This can actually lead to a type of obsessive-compulsive behavior that can be triggered by anxiety or stress.

Many dogs will simply grow out of this behavior, but others will need training to teach them how to stop chasing their tails. Not only can it be bad for your pup, but with all that spinning around, something is sure to get broken. Add to this that obsessive tail chasing can lead to other types of OCD behavior. With this in mind, the sooner you can start working on this training, the better it will be for your pup and the rest of your household. 

Getting Started

Before you worry about training your pup to stop chasing his tail, he needs to have mastered the basic commands. This will make it much easier for you to work on training him to leave his tail alone. The hardest part of all for most dog owners is losing the fun they had watching their up spin in crazy circles.  For this, you won't need much in the way of supplies, but you will need a few things like:

  • Treats
  • Toys
  • Time
  • Patience

Face it, training your pup to stop spinning in circles chasing his tail is not the easiest thing in the world. It will take plenty of time and patience if you want this training to succeed. 

The Vet First Method

Most Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
To the vet
Start out by taking your pup to the vet to rule out any possible medical conditions causing him to chase his tail.
Step
2
Spend time with your pup
Spend plenty of time exercising your pup and playing with him on a daily basis. This may help to burn off of excess energy.
Step
3
Teach tricks
Work with him to teach him a new trick. This will provide a distraction that will take his mind off chasing his tail.
Step
4
Use the trick commands
Use the command for his new tricks when he starts to chase his tail. If he stops and does what he is told, reward him with a treat and plenty of praise.
Step
5
Repeat
Keep repeating this training until your pup stops chasing his tail on his own or will stop each time you give him the command to do so.
Recommend training method?

The Distraction Method

Effective
2 Votes
Step
1
Grab treats and toys
Grab a pack of your pup's favorite treats, chew toys, and regular toys.
Step
2
Choose a simple command
Choose a simple command your pup already knows how to follow, such as 'sit' or 'down'.
Step
3
Watch for signs of spinning
Watch your pup for the first signs that he is getting ready to spin and chase his tail.
Step
4
When he starts
As soon as your pup looks like he is ready to chase his tail, give him something else to do using one of the above commands.
Step
5
Keep trying
Keep repeating the above step, distracting him from thinking about chasing his tail. It may take several weeks for him to master this skill, but don't be surprised to see him do it from time to time even after he seems to have mastered the skill. This is normal, and you should be able to stop it using a single command like "Stop!"
Recommend training method?

The Bell Method

Least Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
The bells, the bells
For this method, you will need a small but loud bell you can attach to your pup's collar. You can buy bells like this at any department or craft store.
Step
2
Attach the bell
Attach the bell to your pup's collar. This will let you know when he starts to spin after his tail, as it will make a lot of noise.
Step
3
Even out of sight
The bell will ring and can be heard throughout your house, making it virtually impossible for your pup to get away with chasing his tail when he thinks you can't see him.
Step
4
For whom the bell tolls
Each time you hear the bell, find your pup and see if it is because he is chasing his tail. Use a chew toy or treat to distract him. In time, your pup may decide to chase the chew toy instead of his tail.
Step
5
Repeat the steps
Keep repeating this training until your pup finally gets it through his head that he no longer feels the need to chase his tail.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Valius
German Shepherd
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Valius
German Shepherd
1 Year

Dog keeps chasing tail and cant seem to stop, these methods havent work

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
662 Dog owners recommended

Hello Riccardo, I suggest consulting a veterinary behaviorist (someone who is trained both medically and in behavior modification). Tail chasing can be an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Certain breeds, including German Shepherds, are more prone to it than others. The OCD can be triggered by excitement, anxiety, boredom or imbalanced Serotonin and Dopamine levels. If he receives attention when he does it, like people laughing, then he might also be doing it for attention. Finally, it could be a sign of a medical issue in the bum region, such anal glands that are impacted, worms, or other itching and soreness he has trouble reaching. To deal with the tail chasing, you need to first determine what's causing it or triggering it, then work with your vet (if purely medical, like worms), or a veterinary behaviorist to deal with underlying causes while also implementing training at the same time. Just treating the medical side or just treating the action of chasing alone may not be enough, both need to be addressed, unless it's simply due to worms or anal glands. A veterinary behaviorist with experience with OCD and repetitive type behaviors will be the most likely to be able to help you determine the underlying cause and implement a behavior modification protocol based on what's causing it. Check out the article that I have linked below for a bit more information on tail chasing and causes: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/why-do-dogs-chase-their-tails Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rebel
German Shepherd
24 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
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Rebel
German Shepherd
24 Weeks

Keep chasing his tail.
Even when we are in the garden playing sometimes
he will start chasing his tail and also when someone comes to the house he gets excited.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
662 Dog owners recommended

Hello Terry, I suggest consulting a veterinary behaviorist (someone who is trained both medically and in behavior modification). Tail chasing can be an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Certain breeds, including German Shepherds, are more prone to it than others. The OCD can be triggered by excitement, anxiety, boredom or imbalanced Serotonin and Dopamine levels. Some puppies grow out of tail chasing and simply do it for fun. German Shepherds are more genetically prone to it, so it might be worth contacting your vet or a veterinarian behaviorist now to see if there is something medical of phycological going on. If he receives attention when he does it, like people laughing, then he might also be doing it for attention. Finally, it could be a sign of a medical issue in the bum region, such anal glands that are impacted, worms, or other itching and soreness he has trouble reaching. Since he tends to do it just during times of excitement that is less likely though. To deal with the tail chasing, you need to first determine what's causing it or triggering it (excitement triggers it), then work with your vet (if purely medical, like worms), or a veterinary behaviorist to deal with underlying causes while also implementing training at the same time. Just treating the medical side or just treating the action of chasing alone may not be enough, both need to be addressed, unless it's simply due to worms or anal glands. A veterinary behaviorist with experience with OCD and repetitive type behaviors will be the most likely to be able to help you determine the underlying cause and implement a behavior modification protocol based on what's causing it. Check out the article that I have linked below for a bit more information on tail chasing and causes: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/why-do-dogs-chase-their-tails Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Luna
German Shepherd
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Luna
German Shepherd
2 Years

I had to have part of my dog's tail amputated due to biting it and keeping a sore on it. Luna was put on prozac (reconcile) and gabapentin. The gabapentin was suppose to calm her because the vet thinks it is anxiety. But she has been on it a week and nothing. I know that the prozac is going to take weeks to work. I am beginning now to think it is more boredom and excitement than anxiety. Though she does have fears of the outside. I don't want to have to put her though another surgery to remove the rest of the tail. She has sores on the nubby now. I am at my wits end.

Sincerely,

Karen Sudderth.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
662 Dog owners recommended

Hello Karen, First, I suggest stimulating pup more mentally. You can food pup part of her kibble our of dog food stuffed chew toys and durable puzzle toys. Incorporate training into routine exercise, like heeling, Sit, Down, and Stay periodically during a walk, and Wait, down, Sit, Stay, during fetching games. I also suggest having a 30 minute training session with pup each day that you can, for the purpose of exercising her mentally - mental exercise has been proven to tire a dog twice as much as physical exercise alone, and the right type can help release calming chemicals in the brain. During these sessions you want her to be slightly challenged by practicing new things or slightly harder versions of current commands as she improves to keep things interesting and a little tiring - this has the benefit of also gaining a well trained dog. Finally, before resorting to amputating, if pup is still bothering the tail and measures with your vet are not effective alone, I suggest hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like fear, aggression, and obsessive compulsive behaviors (which might be what's going on here), and is very knowledgeable with e-collar training, to work on low level e-collar training, to interrupt the chewing, then redirect pup to something more appropriate to chew, like a dog food stuffed chew toy right after. You want pup to learn that chewing the tail is unpleasant now (she might view it as rewarding right now since obsessive compulsive behaviors can feel self - rewarding to the dog), and then the chew toy is a pleasant alternative instead. This needs to be done with someone who understands behavior and how to train at a dog's "working level" which is a term they should understand to mean the lowest level on the e-collar that a dog will respond to the collar at. If they don't know that term, they likely aren't familiar enough with e-collar training. You may also need to speak with your vet about pup wearing a cone for a couple of weeks, since pup may be chewing at it now due to irritation from past chewing, making it continuously itchy. You will need to break that cycle by preventing pup from chewing it for long enough to allow it to heal, using something like a cone temporarily. This will likely only be part of the solution, since the behavior may be habit now, but it is one important part of the solution. I would recommend with your vet's approval, a couple weeks of the the cone (or however long they recommend), then begin the training with a trainer as soon as the cone comes off, so that you are starting with a healed tail and don't have that working against you. I am not a vet, so consult your vet for any medical advice. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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