Perhaps second only to “Why did the chicken cross the road?” is the question of why dogs chase their tails. Most of us have seen a canine companion circle around and around in a usually futile attempt to catch its tail. Why do those silly dogs do that?

Chasing one’s tail — also called whirling — is a natural behavior often seen among different species of predators. Some experts believe that tail chasing is simply a form of play that young predators engage in when they have free time. Unlike prey animals, predators don’t constantly worry about being eaten by other animals, so they have time to play.

Anyone who has ever played with a puppy knows that they often chase their tails. This is perfectly normal when they’re young and playful. Some puppies act as if they’re not aware that their tails are attached to their bodies! When they become bored — which happens frequently with young puppies — chasing that wagging end back there can seem like quite the cure for boredom!

We often wonder what puppies would do if they caught their tails. One snap of the teeth is probably enough to teach most puppies that their tails are indeed attached to their bodies.

Watching a puppy chase its tail can be very funny. If you laugh and give your puppy attention when it chases its tail, your puppy may chase its tail more often when it wants more attention from you.

Whether they learn that their tails are always going to be following them around or they just don’t play as much anymore, older dogs tend not to chase their tails like puppies do. When older dogs chase their tails, it can be a sign that a trip to the veterinarian might be a good idea. For example, older dogs might chase their tails if they have fleas or worms.

Tail chasing in older dogs can also be a sign of a behavioral problem. Like humans, dogs can develop compulsive disorders. Sometimes these disorders cause dogs to chew or lick themselves. In other cases, they can cause them to chase their tails for no apparent reason.

Sometimes older dogs might chase their tails for no particular reason other than that they’ve been confined too long indoors. Certain breeds, such as terriers and German shepherds, also tend to chase their tails more than other breeds.

If you notice an older dog chasing its tail often, it’s a good idea to take it to a veterinarian for a check-up. The veterinarian may be able to diagnose a problem that can be fixed with medicine. A veterinarian may also be able to give you some ideas for how to deal with tail chasing if it becomes a problem.

 

116 Join the Discussion

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    • Hello, LK! Thanks so much for stopping by Wonderopolis today and sharing a little about your dog! We hope you have a WONDERful day! :-)

  1. We have 2 dogs named Tybee and Georgia. Georgia is really old, so she doesn’t chase anything. Tybee chases the soccer ball out in the yard. She pushes it around with her nose. One time she even scored a goal in our soccer net.

    • WOW! We think it’s really cool that Tybee scored a goal with the soccer ball, Tanner! She sounds like she’s got a lot of energy! We bet both of your dogs are AWESOME pets! :-)

  2. I was right…today’s wonder was about dogs chasing their tail.

    This video was so cool, I think that usually most of the time they chase their tail for fun.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about why dogs chase their tails, Day! Awesome job on guessing what today’s Wonder would be about, too! :-)

  3. I have a boarder collie named Willy. He is 13 years old he does not case his tail, but my friend’s dog Annie chases her tail. Willy plays ball and Willy tosses it back to you.

    • Willie sounds like a really cool dog, Popcorn! Annie sounds like she’s a lot of fun to play with, too! Thanks for sharing about both dogs today, and THANKS for visiting Wonderopolis! :-)

  4. This is a great website! I’m an aspiring teacher and wish I had a classroom to share this site with. It’s so nice that you respond to all the young visitors. Thanks for all that you do to keep us wondering!

    • Thank YOU for taking the time to let us know what you think about Wonderopolis, Dani! We appreciate your support so much…have a WONDERful day! :-)

  5. That’s funny. I have three dogs and none of them chase their tails. Can tomorrow’s wonder be about Gerbils? Please?

    • Thank you for sharing that you have three dogs, Kimberlee! We think that’s so cool! We don’t know what tomorrow’s Wonder will be about…we’ll all have to stop back by Wonderopolis to be surprised and learn some AMAZING new things! :-)

    • We think some dogs probably do, TNS! Thanks so much for hanging out in Wonderopolis today…we appreciate you! :-)

  6. Hey! The wonder of the day today was awesome. I love dogs and lots of other animals. So, let me get this straight, when dogs are old, when they chase their tail that means you might want to take them to the vet? That will help me a lot.

    • Hello, Tessa! Thanks for letting us know you thought today’s Wonder was awesome…we’re glad you liked it! It’s always a good idea to take your pets to see the vet if they start doing anything that seems out of the ordinary. Since they can’t talk to us to tell us what’s bothering them, sometimes their actions (like chasing their tail if they haven’t really ever done it before) let us know they need our help to make them comfortable and keep them healthy! Thanks for being such a caring Wonder Friend! We think you ROCK! :-)

  7. Dogs chase their tail because they think that people are chasing them and they think it is fun and let them be happy. I have a dog and that is why I know. Love, Jordyn. I AM 8 YEARS OLD.

    • We’re so glad you left us a comment and shared a little about yourself with all your friends in Wonderopolis today, Jordyn! Thank you! :-)

  8. Well, at least today’s wonder of the day is about dogs. I loved today’s wonder! :D I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is that why does time go by fast. :)

    TJ

  9. Hi Wonderopolis!
    I actually JUST got a tiny little yorkie and she has a short tail so she always chases my cats tail!

    • We can picture that in our minds, Kayla, and we think it’s so cute! We hope your new dog and your cat become the best of friends! :-)

  10. I have never really thought about this before, but my dog chases her tail all the time. It seems like fun for her, and she gets really tired. Her name is Tessa. I am nine years old.

    • Thanks so much for sharing a little about yourself and your dog, Juliana! We’re so happy to count you as a Wonder Friend! :-)

  11. Dear Wonderopolis,
    The video today was hilarious! I never thought about how prey animals never chase their tails but now I understand why. A new fact that I learned is that older dogs shouldn’t chase their tails. Another interesting fact that caught my attention is that the certain breeds, terriers and German Shepherds tend to chase their tails more often than other breeds. I also didn’t know that some young dogs chase their tails just to get attention or even just try to amuse themselves. And I learned today that dogs chasing their tails is also known as whirling. I’ve always wondered what would happen if a dog catches it’s tail, but now I know when a dog catches it’s tail it would either bite it or lick then it would learn it’s lesson that their tail is connected to their body.
    Thanks for this spectacular wonder!

    • It makes us happy to hear that you learned so much by exploring this Wonder of the Day®, Sarah! Way to go! We hope you and all your “MC” classmates have a WONDERful week! :-)

  12. My dog is 1 year old and he never chases his tail. He just rolls on his back often, but when I had my other dog, she was 2 and she would look at me, my sister and mom then start chasing her tail just like you guys said…they like attention!

    • We think it’s COOL that you shared how your two dogs acted differently about chasing their tails, Kamryn! Thanks for leaving us such an AWESOME comment today! :-)

  13. So, that was very interesting and I was wondering how it talked about you bringing it to a veterinarian. What all can they do to a dog to help him/her to survive?

    • Thanks for leaving us this comment today, Brianna! We’re not sure what all the vet might do to examine the dog or to help the dog once it is determined what medical issue it might be experiencing. Since the vet is a doctor who is trained to treat animals, it’s best to let him or her do what they do best in that case! :-)

    • Hello, Ruth! Sometimes it’s fun to learn new things even if we’ve never even thought about that “thing” before! We hope you learned something new in Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • Hi, Serena! If your dog is young and only does it once in a while, your dog might just be having fun or seeking attention. If your dog is an older dog, and hasn’t really ever chased it’s tail before and starts doing it, it might need to be seen by a veterinarian. Either way, it’s best to let your dog’s vet know what’s going on…he or she is the expert and can help you determine if it’s normal behavior for your dog or not. :-)

    • We’re so glad you stopped by this Wonder about dogs chasing their tails then, Rae! We hope you have a GREAT day! :-)

  14. Hi wonderopolis. I love today’s wonder of the day!
    This wonder makes me think of my dog when he chases his tail. He only chases his tail when he is very happy.

    Have a nice day, wonderopolis

    BYE

    • Hello, Brooklyn! Thanks for sharing about your dog and when he chases his tail! We are super happy to hear that you enjoyed this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • We think so, too, Claire! Thanks so much for stopping by Wonderopolis today and leaving us this AWESOME comment! :-)

  15. Hi wonderopolis!
    I love this wonder because I have a connection to this wonder. My friend she got a new dog. Her new dog chases her tail.

    Have a fantastic day, wonderopolis!

    got a new dog her new

    • That’s a really awesome connection to this Wonder of the Day®, Audrey! Thanks so much for sharing it and also for wishing us a fantastic day…you are such a SUPER Wonder Friend! We hope you have a WONDERful day, too! :-)

  16. Hi, Wonderopolis!!!
    I love this wonder very much. I learned new interesting facts about a dog. I didn’t know that chasing tail of a puppy is normal but chasing tail of an old dog is disorder. Also I learned why a canine companion tries to catch its tail, which is a form of play. Now I wonder whether there is another animal that chases its tail except a dog.
    Thank you for giving good information.

    • We’ve never WONDERed if there are other animals that chase their tails, Team McNeil #19, but now we do, too! Thanks so much for sharing some of the facts you learned by visiting this Wonder…we think you ROCK! :-)

  17. My brother Evan really liked the wonder. We learned that dogs really do chase their tails. Me and my brother and older sister wondered do dogs really smile? Beause my dog smiles when we do something funny she smiles. Have a happy wondering day!

    • We think it’s so AWESOME that you are visiting Wonderopolis and learning together as a family, Evan, Olivia and Talia! We also think dogs smile in their own special ways! We bet your dog is smiling because she is so happy to have WONDERful friends like YOU and your family to take care of her and love her! :-)

  18. I would have to say they chase their tails because they think it is another dog. Since dogs are very sociable animals, they actually want to meet whoever is attached to their tail. :)

    • We like that reason, Clayton…it’s fun and creative! Thanks for sharing why you think dogs chase their tails!

  19. I didn’t know that they chased their tails to get attention. Is it normal for a dog to not chase his tail? My puppy doesn’t do it.

    • That’s a SUPER question, Priscilla! It’s OK if your puppy doesn’t chase its tail…some dogs just don’t do it! Thanks for being a friend of Wonderopolis! :-)

    • Thanks for that warning, Jenna! We really appreciate you looking out for your Wonder Friends and their pets! :-)

  20. Hi:
    I never knew that when old dogs chase their tails, go to the vet (Or their disorder). I also learned that predators do it, too! I WONDER what do they do with disorder dogs? What I Know: They do it for fun. They do it when they’re puppies. It goes in a circle.

    Thanks For Making us
    WONDER!

    • Hello, Team Unger #2! We’re not exactly sure what a vet might do for an older dog that chases its tail because of a disorder. We know that the vet will do everything he or she can to make the dog feel better, though! :-)

    • That’s a great WONDER, Diego! We have seen some dogs who act dizzy when they get done chasing their tail! We think most dogs take little breaks in between times of tail-chasing, though. This might help keep them from getting dizzy! :-)

  21. Hi Wonderopolis, I’m wondering about why did the first dogs start to chase their tails? I really enjoy this wonder because it reminds me of my dog Lucy even though she does not chase her tail. I think there are some important facts about dogs chasing their tail because like you said some times if an older dog chases its tail there might be something wrong with the dog. I also wonder why dogs are born with tails? I hope you enjoyed my post!

    • That’s a really interesting WONDER, McNeil 15! Why ARE dogs (and other animals) born with tails? We are WONDERing about that now, too! Do tails help animals keep their balance? Are they always useful? Thanks for getting our Wonder brains thinking a little bit more this morning! :-)

  22. I did not know that German Shepherds and Terriers chase there tails very often. I also did not know that tail chasing in older dogs can be a sign of worms or flees. I wonder why dogs do not get dizzy while spinning?

    THANKS WONDEROPOLIS,

    teammcneil12

    • We think that’s a GREAT question, too, Team McNeil 12! In fact, you’re not the only Wonder Friend who has questions about that after exploring this Wonder of the Day®! Don’t you wish we could ask animals how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking and they could tell us? That would sure make it a lot easier to find out if they get dizzy! :-)

    • Hello there, Ela! We’re so glad you liked the video for this Wonder of the Day®! Thank you for being a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Hi, Natasha! You’re the second Wonder Friend who has left us a comment today about that very same Wonder idea! We think it’s GREAT and we thank you for suggesting it, too! :-)

  23. When I was reading today’s wonder “Why Dogs Chase Their Own Tail”it made me laugh, because I never thought that puppies would chase their tail just because their bored, or forgot they had a tail. That if an older dogs chases its tail it could be a sing their ill with maybe worms in there body. How sad. Plus, I never really thought that dogs would be counted as PREDATOR (-the animal how does the killing), they seem so harmless. But then again. WHIRLING how knew it could mean chasing ones own tail. But before I finish, I have one more question, is there a list that says who are the top 5 or 10 dogs who chases there own tails. If you ask me the reading deserves 2 thumbs up. Good job.

    • Thanks for giving this Wonder “two thumbs up,” Team Unger #5! We sure appreciate hearing how much you liked learning in Wonderopolis! We’re not sure if there is a list of the top dogs that chase their tails…we’ll have to do some more WONDERing about that! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know you enjoyed the video for this Wonder, Lily! WE appreciate your concern for the dog in the video, too! :-)

  24. Wonderopolis,
    I learned that dogs chase their tails for many reasons. One, a young dog will do it to practice engaging on prey. They also chase it for a cure of boredom. Old dogs chase it to get out parasites and fleas. The old dogs need to be taken to a vet. I wonder how many fleas average are on a dog?

    Team Unger 4

  25. Hi Wonderopolis!

    The video is so cute and funny! I didn’t know that dogs chase their tails for many different reasons! There were even some I didn’t know before. Like how they even forgot they had tails! I don’t think I would forget that! I didn’t know that when a older dog chases its tail, it either has fleas, worms, or a behavior problem.

    I have a question. Why is there a difference for older dogs and puppies? When older dogs chase their tails they have fleas, worms, or it is a behavior problem. When puppies chase their tails it means either they are bored, or want your attention. They don’t get harmed. Why is that?

    I also learned 2 new vocabulary words! They are futile and compulsive.

    Well Wonderopolis, thank you for all the great WONDERing!
    Team Unger#1

    • That’s a GREAT question about the difference in puppies and older dogs chasing their tails, Team Unger #1! Puppies do get worms sometimes, too, so it’s always a good idea to get them checked out at the vet! We appreciate all the WONDERing you and your “TEAM” classmates are doing around Wonderopolis! :-)

    • Thanks so much for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder, “Da Awesomeness!” We appreciate your comment today! :-)

  26. The weird thing about how terriers and German shepherds is that they chase their tails a lot and that I am going to get a German Shepherd next week and I am hoping it is a girl!

    • How exciting that you are getting a new dog, Hannah! We are super happy for you…we bet you will make a GREAT pet owner! :-)

  27. Hello! Have you ever wanted to know why dogs chase their tails? Well I did, that is until today. I learned some new words as well, which are whirling (to rotate rapidly) and compulsive (obsessive). Some facts I learned are certain breeds, such as terriers and German shepherds also tend to chase their tails more than other breeds. Sometimes dogs do it because they’re bored. Have dogs bitten their tails before? Thanks for putting this wonder up!

    • Thanks for sharing the new words and facts you learned by exploring this Wonder, Team Unger 20! We think some dogs have probably bitten their tails before, but we bet once they finally “caught” their tails and chomped down, they let go really quickly! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing about your dog today, Blake! We appreciate your comment and also that you stopped by this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • It makes us super happy to hear that you learned something new by exploring this Wonder about why dogs chase their tails, Hackey 789! Thanks so much for leaving us a comment to let us know! :-)

    • Hello, Buckley! Thanks for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder of the Day®! We appreciate your comment and are really glad you visited Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • We think it ROCKS, too, Julie! Thanks for visiting this Wonder and letting us know what you thought about the video! We hope you have a GREAT rest of the week! :-)

    • We’re happy to hear that you enjoyed this Wonder, Kaity! Thanks for sharing your comment– we hope you have a SUPER day! :)

  28. Hi I’m Maddy from Mrs. Caplin’s class. I never knew that if a dog itches or chews itself it might be developing problems. I also never knew that chasing one’s tail is called whirling. My dog itches herself all the time do you recommend we take her to the vet? Is jumping up on people a compulsive need for dogs? About how long is it until dogs realize their tails are attached to their body? I think tomorrow’s WONDER is about a turtle or tortoise because you just want them to hurry up and get there.

    • Hey there, Maddy11! We think it’s great that you’re WONDERing about different things dogs do to communicate with us! Some dogs may always chase their tails, and unless you train them otherwise, many dogs will always jump when they meet someone new! However, dogs scratch themselves after they’ve been outside, or clean themselves in different ways. Unless your dog is acting strangely, we think the typical check-up at the vet will be just fine for your pup! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your great comment, Kaitlyn10! We know there are a lot of factors that go into why animals do some things, and we’re glad you suggested one of them! Say hi to Skittles for us! :)

  29. Hi I have a dog that are Border Collie and Dalmatian mix and he’s 7 years old and he really doesn’t chase his tail when we got that dog “Teki” I think Teki are mature! Thank you for reading!

    Monkey Geek :)

  30. Hello once again wonderopolis speaking of dogs makes me want to get a pitbull so I liked that video and my dog Bailey chases her tail and bumps into things I really liked this video.

    • That’s a great observation, Wonder Friend S! We are so glad you shared your awesome connection to our dog-riffic Wonder! What kind of dog do you have? :)

  31. Hi wonderopolis I talked about some kinds of tails with my family. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about a baby eating.

    • Nina, we’re super excited to know that you and your family have been WONDERing together! How exciting! :) We Wonder what we, as humans, would look like with tails? It makes us giggle to think about it! :)

      Thanks for sharing your prediction for tomorrow’s Wonder– it’s going to be a mouthful! We can’t wait to hear more about the Wonders that you and your family think of! :)

  32. I learned that if they keep going at their tail and chasing it, that might be a problem. I was surprised that they would need medication for chasing their tails. I want to know more about how do dogs run up and down the stairs really fast, while chasing their tail? Also, I was wondering if it is really bad for the dog to chase its tail maybe for a chance it is bad for them, but I don’t know that for sure.

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do dogs chase their tails?
  • Is it normal for puppies to chase their tails?
  • What should you do if an older dog chases its tail often?

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Try It Out

Ready to get creative? Put on your thinking caps and get imaginative. We want you to write a story called “Now What Do I Do with It?”

In addition to their own tails, dogs have long been known to chase cars. An old joke that’s been around forever wonders what a dog would do with a car if he caught it. Guess what? You’re going to answer that age-old question!

Your story should have a hero — a dog — that chases a vehicle. It could be a car or an ambulance or even a monster truck. It’s up to you!

After a thrilling chase, your hero catches the vehicle and does…what? Your story can be as exciting or mysterious or crazy or funny as you want it to be. When you’re finished, be sure to share your story with your Wonder Friends by posting it on Facebook!

 

Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ Geographical Dog Show lesson, children will learn about how dogs were domesticated from wolves and why people started breeding dogs to do different tasks.

 

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