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Tail Chaser

Hi John

An elderly friend of mine acquired Hope, a miniature dachshund when her original owner passed away. We have two questions, the first being why does she chase her tail? Could it be a flea on the tip of her tail??

The second question is how to get Hope to stop licking. For example, if Hope is on the couch with my friend, she will lick any little piece of skin she sees and keep licking until that piece of skin is covered up or she is shooed down off the couch.

Would it be too much to ask if you would be able to reply to my e-mail? If not, where would I find the answers?

Please and Thank you!!!

Hi Louise,

I’d really like you to seek out an experienced trainer on this one. There’s a lot missing from this letter but I think your two questions are connected. There are enough clues that warning flags are at half mast. Dogs chase their tails for a few reasons. I wouldn’t include the flea theory as one of those reasons because I’ve never heard of a colony of fleas deciding to make their abode exclusively the tip of a dog’s tail. My experience and I won’t elaborate further is that they prefer a more southerly underside exposure on the tail.

One probable reason for tail chasing is puppies seem to think it’s fun but usually the novelty wears off past puppy hood when the pup figures the cat might be easier to catch then its elusive tail. Breed can play a role as well as well as frustration and extreme excitement. I’ve seen a lot of police department dogs start to do the spins in their cruiser cages at the first clue there was going to be some action. It used to drive me nuts because I knew that by the time the dog arrived at the scene the crate marathon had used up a good chunk of its endurance. You sometimes see Jack Russell Terriers giving chase after spotting perched on their tail some insolent ghost making rude gestures. Considering the length of their bodies a dachshund would have to be a positive thinker to take on tail chasing as a pass time but the young ones at least aren’t immune.

I’ve also seen high energy dogs do it out of frustration usually due to lack of physical and mental exercise but even then it can turn into a compulsive habit which brings me to what I’m a little worried about. Your little dachshund may have or be developing a obsessive compulsive disorder OCD (like compulsive hand washing). When you combine the tail chasing with the licking compulsion you can see how I might be a little concerned both seem compulsive. A traumatic event, subsequent tail chasing and licking (which may have existed before the owner’s death) is more than enough reason to seek professional assessment and treatment. It’s not easy either. I’ve never heard of OCD being cured in the human realm nor true OCD being extinguished in the canine. However with nutrition, training, exercise and sometimes medication it can sometimes be managed. These are always dogs of a sensitive nature and also by nature are extremely good companions. However they typically hate being left alone and be reduced to a paroxysm of terror when subjected to fireworks, thunder storms and even the passing of a hot air balloon. They soil the house when stressed and people often confuse that with a basic house soiling problem and so get frustrated when the standard approach doesn’t resolve it.

Better safe than sorry in your case, bring in a professional. Trying things on your own may make things worse as missteps cause stress and stress exacerbates the condition

John Wade

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2 thoughts on “Tail Chaser”

  1. Cindi Jenkins

    We have a 3 year old female Golden retriever. She has just started about a month ago licking and chewing her paws not to the point were they are sore and raw yet. Should we tell her softly no and pull her paw away. Some times that works but most of the time she goes right back to it. We bought her from a good breeder. They certified hips and a few other things. They even let us come to house after born, she had a pin set up in her house were they could be with her. She doesn’t seem to have any anxieties. She not afraid of thunder or anything, and she is very good when we leave her at home by herself. Could she be lacking a vitimin ? We have gave her vitamins ever since we brought her home with us , she was 8 weeks old. I would appreciate it if you could help me with. This problem before it gets worse…

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