What Does It Mean When a Puppy Bites Its Tail?

by Adrienne Farricelli Google
    Congratulations for winning the tail-biting gold medal award.

    Congratulations for winning the tail-biting gold medal award.

    BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

    If you can't make head or tail of your puppy's nose-to-tail obsession, you'll probably feel comforted knowing that your little stinker is not alone. Many pups go through a phase when they’re mastering their motor skills and seem to suddenly realize they come equipped with a tail to happily play with. Luckily you can help little Chewbacca outgrow the tail-biting phase and learn to play with more appropriate toys.

    Local Irritations

    Not all puppies necessarily bite their tails as a form of play. Some pups may be actually chasing and gnawing on their tails because of a local irritation. Allergies, bug bites and small cuts are common culprits, so if your pup is stuck in an itchy situation, inspect his tail. Look for any cuts, sores, crusts, pus, unusual smells and local redness. Don't forget to look under the tail and also check your puppy's bum for any signs of irritation or puffiness.

    Pesky Parasites

    Several pesky parasites may be at the root of your pup's tail chasing problem. For instance, fleas love to congregate and have picnics on Scruffy's tail. Even though you may have never seen fleas scurrying on your pooch's tail, don't claim victory yet; your next step entails looking all over for flea droppings. Put your investigative hat on and search for black specks that turn red once you wet them with some water. That's the undeniable evidence you're looking for. Fleas can also carry tapeworms, parasitic worms known for also triggering tail biting as they crawl out of your pup's bum.

    Puppy Play

    If your vet gave your pup a clean bill of health and no pesky parasites were found feasting on him, then it's safe to assume your puppy's tail biting is possibly pure and simple play. Little Chewbacca may simply find his tail an amusing appendage to catch and occasionally nibble on just as human babies are intrigued by their toes. Usually puppies outgrow this behavior once they get used to their tails and discover more intriguing games.

    Reinforcement

    All puppies love attention, and if you laugh and giggle every time your buddy nips at his tail, you provide him with more and more motivation that ultimately ends up further fueling the behavior. You can reduce this form of tail biting by no longer providing any form of attention. This includes positive attention under the form of eye contact or laughter and negative attention under the form of scolding.

    Reducing Tail Biting

    Watching your puppy whirl around to chase that odd appendage attached to his bum can indeed be quite a hilarious performance, especially when he falls to the ground with his tail in his mouth, but it starts to get a bit old though if your puppy becomes fixated and does it all the time. In this case, distract him by offering something else to do and reduce boredom. Encourage him to play with an interactive toy, take him on brief walks or organize some play dates with other healthy pups so his mind will be stimulated and forget all about his tail.

    Photo Credits

    • BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.

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