THRILL OF THE CHASE

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - EYE | PETS - WORDS: DR KYRA CRAFT Dr Kyra Craft BVSc (Hons), Wet Noses Mo­bile Vet head vet­eri­nar­ian, wet­noses.com.au

Have you ever seen a dog chas­ing its own tail? Our pets are funny lit­tle crit­ters and tail chas­ing ap­pears to be just an­other crazy an­tic. The im­por­tant ques­tion is, “Can it de­velop into some­thing more se­ri­ous?” For those pets where this be­hav­iour is repet­i­tive, ex­ces­sive, causes in­jury or in­ter­rupts their daily func­tion­ing, it’s def­i­nitely cause for con­cern.

In most cases, in­ter­mit­tent tail chas­ing is just play­ful­ness. In pups, they are just learn­ing about their lit­tle tails and are of­ten fas­ci­nated by this wig­gly wag­gly ap­pendage. They should lose in­ter­est as they ma­ture.

So why does this com­pul­sive tail-chas­ing be­hav­iour de­velop in the first place? A ge­netic pre­dis­po­si­tion is com­monly re­spon­si­ble – Ger­man shep­herds, English bull ter­ri­ers and cat­tle dogs are recog­nised af­fected breeds.

Be­lieve it or not, it may be an at­ten­tion­seek­ing be­hav­iour – what bet­ter way to get your master’s at­ten­tion then by re­peat­edly whirling around in cir­cles?

Any at­ten­tion given to this be­hav­iour – pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive – can re­in­force it. And spare a thought for our anx­ious lit­tle pets, with tail chas­ing a symp­tom of an un­der­ly­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal is­sue – very com­fort­ing for highly-strung pooches.

Next comes bore­dom. Tail chas­ing is a way for them to have fun.

Some­times, just in­creas­ing ac­tiv­ity lev­els will cure the be­hav­iour.

Med­i­cal rea­sons for tail chas­ing must be ruled in or out by your vet. I have seen tail in­juries that re­sult in ob­ses­sive tail chas­ing – start­ing as a sooth­ing be­hav­iour and then be­com­ing a habit. Ir­ri­ta­tion caused by in­testi­nal worms, fleas or en­larged anal glands, is an­other com­mon cause.

In­crease your pooch’s ac­tiv­ity lev­els and en­vi­ron­men­tal en­rich­ment. Also mon­i­tor skin and gen­eral health – seek vet ad­vice if you’re wor­ried as early in­ter­ven­tion is best. They may even sug­gest en­list­ing a be­hav­iour spe­cial­ist.

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