why do german shepherds chase their tails

Why Do German Shepherds Chase Their Tails? 8 Reasons Why

Watching your German Shepherd twirl around and chase its tail can be quite hilarious. But not when it does it too much. In fact, too much tail chasing may indicate that there’s something wrong with your dog.

In this article we look deeper into the reasons why German Shepherds chase their tails and what you can do about it.

Why Do German Shepherds Chase Their Tails?

German Shepherds may chase their tails for a variety of reasons. Some do it out of boredom and to entertain themselves. Others however, may do it due to compulsive behavior or underlying medical problems.

Curiosity And Playfulness

Sometimes it’s just youth coming into play. As German Shepherd puppies learn more about their bodies, they may see their tail as a fun toy to chase and chew on. This type of tail chasing is just a passing phase though and puppies will eventually grow out if it.

Decreased Awareness

On the flip-side of things, older German Shepherds may also chase their tails due to decreased awareness. As cognitive function declines, they’ll be more inclined to engage in repetitive behavior like tail chasing.

To Relieve Boredom

German Shepherds can get bored easily when they lack activity. And when they do, they try to find ways to entertain themselves and release excess energy. Sometimes they do so by chewing on things, digging, barking, and by chasing their tails.

Attention Seeking Behavior

A tail chasing German Shepherd can be fun to watch and so it often elicits a reaction from the dog’s owner. Because of this reaction, which unintentionally serves as positive reinforcement, the German Shepherd may learn to chase its tail when it wants attention.

Fleas And Ticks

Flea and tick infestation may cause itchiness on a German Shepherds tail and lead them to chase and try to bite on it for relief. If you notice this behavior alongside bald patches on your German Shepherd’s coat or scabs and red patches on its skin, then know that it’s time for treatment.

Underlying Health Conditions

Tail chasing may sometimes indicate underlying medical conditions. For instance, excessive tail chasing has been attributed to epilepsy and is sometimes considered to be a seizure-like activity. It may also be caused by other medical issues such as pain, infections, and cancer.

Compulsive Behavior

Tail chasing may also be a sign of mental illness in the German Shepherd as obsessive tail chasing is a symptom of canine compulsive disorder, a condition characterized by repetitive movements regardless of the lack of stimuli or trigger. When left unchecked, this disorder may severely affect a German Shepherd’s ability to function. 


Finally, tail chasing may also be a symptom of anxiety. In this case, repetitive behavior such as tail chasing may serve as a stress reliever or source of comfort, and so a German Shepherd may start doing it when it gets nervous.

If this behavior is coupled with symptoms such as barking, digging, lack of appetite, and a general inability to settle, your German Shepherd may have anxiety issues.

Should You Worry About Your German Shepherd Chasing Its Tail?

It depends on why your German Shepherd does it. Tail chasing isn’t necessarily bad and is for the most part considered to be normal behavior. However, it does become an issue when it gets out of hand or is caused by medical conditions.

So if your German Shepherd only does it occasionally, then you don’t really have to worry. But if your dog does it constantly to the point that it hurts itself or you notice it experiencing pain or being uncomfortable, then you should probably take it to the vet and start correcting its behavior.

How To Stop Your German Shepherd From Chasing Its Tail

First things first, you must identify the reason why your German Shepherd is chasing its tail. Only after such will you be able to apply one of the following solutions:

Take Your German Shepherd To The Vet

If your German Shepherd has been at it for quite some time, then your best bet would be to take it to the vet. Doing so will help rule out or identify any medical issues that may be bothering your dog, and most importantly, allow your vet to provide the best medication or course of action for correcting the behavior.

This includes treatment for physical issues such as ticks and fleas, as well as behavior modification and drug therapy for psychological problems.

Provide Your German Shepherd With Enough Exercise

Again, German Shepherds get bored easily and they tend to develop behavioral issues when they do. So try your best to provide it with enough stimulation by implementing an exercise routine of at least 1 hour of exercise per day, and this could be done by simply walking or by games such as fetch.

If that’s not possible and you’re unable to provide your German Shepherd enough time due to a busy lifestyle, then you may want to consider alternative options such as dog services or toys.

Either way, doing so will not only provide your German Shepherd with entertainment and an avenue to release energy, but it also counts as bonding. So you’re actually addressing attention seeking and boredom induced tail chasing at the same time. What more, exercise and social interaction actually help deal with dog anxiety as well.

That’s three birds, one stone!

Avoid Encouraging The Behavior

As mentioned, owners that react to tail chasing may unintentionally reinforce the behavior. So try not to do so.

If you notice your German Shepherd chasing its tail, don’t get excited or even reprimand your dog, instead choose to ignore it then shower it with praise when it stops.

Final Thoughts

To summarize, German Shepherds chase their tails for a variety of reasons ranging from just for fun to physical and psychological medical conditions. And so while tail chasing can sometimes be natural behavior, it may indicate that a German Shepherd has issues and that it needs to be taken to the vet.

So if your German Shepherd ever chases its tail, be sure to observe and try to find out the cause for the behavior, you may just prevent the degradation of your dog’s quality of life.

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