Behavior Tip of the Month
Got a Whirling Dervish?
A client wrote in about her 6 month old female Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier. It seems the dog chases her tail incessantly and it's driving them "nuts". They want to know what to do.
Tail chasing behavior may seem like a light weight problem to those dog owners who don't have the problem, but it can become obsessive, compulsive, and habituated. That means it becomes harder to stop as time progresses and occupies more and more of the dog's time. It is seen a lot in stressed dogs who are excitable and have a high prey drive. Prey drive is the predatory instinct that motivates dogs to hunt. It's why dogs' precursors, the wolves were able to survive in the wild. No prey drive --- no eating --- no survival. Terriers have a high prey drive and tail chasing is seen in a lot of them. They are really chasing a substitute little animal --- their tail. When high prey drive dogs are stressed due to separation anxiety, confinement for long periods of time in a crate, being tied up etc, they may use their genetic instinct and frustration and chase the only prey that's around --- their tail. This behavior can become self-rewarding and escalate from habit to obsession to compulsion. At the first sign of it, reduce confinement, substitute acceptable prey-like toys such as activity balls, Buster Cubes (put kibble inside it), stuffed Kongs, uncooked Femur bones, tennis balls etc.. Also consider taking your dog to an enclosed field where she can run and chase. Increase her running exercise and teach her to retrieve a ball or rope toy. They are acceptable prey. If none of the above suggestions abate your dog's tail chasing behavior, there are anti-obsessive medications that have shown a lot of success. However, don't wait too long to work on the problem.
Woofs and Wags,
Best Friend Behavior Counseling and Training
San Diego, Ca.
Do you have a question for Carole? You can reach her at this email address - firstname.lastname@example.org
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The information contained on this site is in no way intended to replace that of proper veterinary advice, diagnosis or treatment.
It is meant to provide resource, so that we can better understand canine health related issues.