If your German Shepherd has been chasing its tail, you’re probably wondering why and what you can do about it.
This post will show you a number of reasons why your German Shepherd chases its tail and what you can do about it.
So, why does my German Shepherd chase its tail? Possible reasons can include boredom, compulsive behavior, fleas, allergies, anxiety or that it is just playing.
There are a number of things that you can consider when trying to understand why your German Shepherd chases its tail. Depending on the cause, there are also a number of things that you can do about it as well.
Why your German Shepherd chases its tail
Each of the different reasons that your German Shepherd chases its tail will likely come with a number of clues.
Below, I will mention a number of reasons that your German Shepherd might be chasing its tail and what you can do about it.
German Shepherds are a breed that is meant to get a lot of exercise on a daily basis. Generally, it is recommended that a German Shepherd get an hour of exercise per day. When they do not get enough exercise it can cause them to develop behavioral issues including tail chasing due to being bored.
If your German Shepherd is not currently getting much exercise then making sure that it does will likely help a lot.
It could be the case that your German Shepherd is chasing its tail compulsively. This is where your German Shepherd has an irresistible urge to repeat the behavior. This would be more likely to be the case if your German Shepherd has been chasing its tail repeatedly over the course of weeks or months.
It would also be more likely if it started chasing its tail excessively when something happened that would cause it to develop behavioral issues.
Possible things that could have happened could include:
- Someone mistreated it
- Another dog was aggressive towards it
- It was separated from another dog
Look here for more information about compulsive behavior in dogs.
The reason that your German Shepherd has been chasing its tail could be that it has fleas.
This would be more likely if it has been itching itself in other areas as well, it has been biting its tail and if you have found flees on it or around the house.
If your German Shepherd does bite its tail, I have written more about the possible causes of it and what to do about it here.
If fleas are causing your German Shepherd to chase its tail, it would help to talk to your vet about what you should do to get rid of the flees. There are oral treatments that they can recommend that can be very effective in getting rid of fleas. There are also sprays and combs that you can buy.
It would also help to eradicate fleas from your home by:
- Washing the bedding with hot soapy water
- Vacuuming the carpets and throwing the bad
- Applying an environmental flee control
- Applying a spray, pellet or non-toxic treatment for the yard
- Treating your German Shepherd with a monthly preventative
Allergies or a rash could also be causing your German Shepherd to chase its tail. Allergies can be caused by things such as shampoo, other dogs, pollen or household chemicals (source).
It would help to consider what else happened at around the same time that your German Shepherd started to chase its tail. For example, if it started doing it when you used a new shampoo then it would likely have something to do with it.
It could be the case that something is causing your German Shepherd to become anxious which is making it do things such as chase its tail. This would be more likely if it only seems to do it when things happen that would cause it to become anxious.
Things that might cause it to become anxious could be:
- The sight of you preparing to leave for work
- Thunder, sirens or lightening
- Someone being around that it does not like
Related post: Why is my German Shepherd so anxious?
Nature or play
It could just be the case that your German Shepherd was chasing its tail because it was feeling energetic at the time. This would be more likely if your German Shepherd is still a puppy and if it only did it once.
Before trying to get your German Shepherd to stop chasing its tail it would help to consider what might be causing it to do it. Below, I will mention a number of particularly useful things that you can consider.
How old it is
It would help to consider the age of your German Shepherd.
If it is just a puppy then it would make it more likely that it was just playing at the time. However, if it has been doing it repeatedly then it would make it more likely that there is something else that is causing it.
If it is older then it would make it less likely that it was just playing and it will be important to figure out the cause if it has been doing it repeatedly.
How often your German Shepherd chases its tail
How often your German Shepherd chases its tail will have an impact on the most probable causes of the tail chasing.
If it rarely does it or if it’s a puppy and it just did it once then less likely to be a problem and it was probably playing.
If it does it a lot then it would make it more likely to be due to things such as a rash, fleas, compulsive behavior or an injury.
When your German Shepherd chases its tail
It would also likely help to consider the timing of when your German Shepherd chases its tail.
For example, if it only seems to chase its tail when you are leaving or while you are not around then it would make it a lot more likely to be due to separation anxiety.
When it started doing it
If your German Shepherd started chasing its tail suddenly then it would make it more likely that it has been doing it due to things such as a rash or allergies.
Whereas, if it has been doing it over a longer period then it would be more likely to be due to compulsive behavior, separation anxiety or boredom.
How to stop your German Shepherd from chasing its tail
Training your German Shepherd to stop chasing its tail can be a tricky thing to do since it is quite impulsive. However, there are a number of ways that you can get it to do it less and to do other things instead which I will mention below.
Take it to a vet
If your German Shepherd has been regularly chasing its tail then the best option for you would be to take it to the vet. This will help to rule out compulsive disorder and allergies. It would be especially important to take it to the vet if it has been biting its tail or there is fur that is missing.
Train it to do other things
One option you have is to train your German Shepherd to do things such as to sit or to lay down on command. Then, when your German Shepherd starts to chase its tail, you could tell it to sit.
I have written more about how to train your German Shepherd to go down on command in the past here. You can use the same technique to teach it to sit as well.
Avoid encouraging the behavior
If your method of getting your German Shepherd to stop chasing its tail is to give it things such as attention, toys or treats then it could be the case that it has learned that chasing its tail gets it what it wants.
Instead, try to avoid rewarding the behavior and get it to sit or to lay instead.
Give it exercise
As mentioned above, a lack of exercise can cause German Shepherds to develop many behavioral issues. If your German Shepherd is not currently getting much exercise then making sure that it does would likely go a long way in improving its behavior.
Some ways to give it exercise would be to walk it for an hour, to teach it to play fetch or to have a dog walker do it for you.
Give it attention
Giving your German Shepherd attention throughout the day should help in getting it to chase its tail less by reducing its anxiety.
You can give it attention by playing with it, training it or exercising it.
Give it other toys to play with
You can also give your German Shepherd toys that it can be distracted with instead of chasing its tail. You can give it puzzle games, things to chew on or just traditional dog toys to keep it occupied.
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