Seeing a dog chase his tail can be very funny. But why do they do it? There are a couple of theories, although until dogs can talk and tell us, we will never know for sure.
Puppies most often are the ones who chase their tail. It is almost as if they see it for the first time realize it is there and decide it is a toy to be caught. If their tail is long enough, they may catch it, but if it is short they will whirl around until they are tired, never actually catching their tail. When a puppy realizes that the tail is theirs, or they cannot catch it, they will often give up the game. In some cases, they will chase the tail of other puppies. This can be a way for them to expend their energy.
If a dog has never chased his tail and suddenly starts to and does not have a playful attitude, a trip to the veterinarian is in order. A dog may chase their tail due to skin problems, eye problems or neurological issues.
Some dogs chase their tail because the owners think it is funny and laugh. Dogs know when you are laughing at or with them, and yes, dog do laugh. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/200911/do-dogs-laugh
A happy response from an owner is a form of reward or encouragement for a dog and a dog will use what works to get attention from the owner. An example of this is a young Collie pup who was deaf and used to get underfoot. Family members would accidently step on her front paw. When this happened the person who stepped on the dog’s foot would bend down and fuss over the dog, rubbing her foot. After a while the dog learned to limp to get people to rub her foot, even though no one stepped on her.
It is possible that a dog will chase his tail because he is anxious. Physical exertion does relieve anxiety and chasing a tail may be one way a dog deals with anxiety. If this is a possibility the owner should look for other signs that the dog is anxious, such as trembling, panting, hiding, or looking generally upset. Owners are good at reading their dogs and can tell when the dog is happy or not.
Although it is not that common, some dogs suffer from a form of compulsive disorder which is really compulsive behavior http://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/evr_dog_behavior_compulsive_disorder
and may chase their tail until they are exhausted. If this is the case the owner must consult a certified animal behavior consultant to help cure or control the problem. Left untreated the behavior can escalate and become a danger to the dog. To find a good behavior consultant go to: http://www.iaabc.org
The best thing a dog owner can do is to provide enough exercise for their dog so that they expend their energy in a healthy manner. Some dog owners have difficulty determining how much is enough. This depends on the type and breed of dog. Little dogs do not need as much room to run to satisfy their needs. The larger the dog the more room they need. Dogs that are bred to work typically need to cover a few miles in order to have enough exercise. The age and health of the dog is a factor as well. For a healthy dog, enough exercise is when they flop down and want to sleep. They may need this type of exercise a few times a day. Typically, the morning and evening are the times of day most dogs want to be active. With some planning and research, we can keep our dogs happy and healthy.