Why Do Dogs Bite Their Tails


why do dogs bite their tails

Every owner has a dog that seems incapable of leaving itself alone. This goes for tail biting too, dogs seem to love to bite their tails and so this article explores this habit a little further.

The most common reason why dogs bite their tails is that they are experiencing irritation in the tail area. Most dogs will not obsessively bite their tails, however, if your dog has dry skin tail biting can become more frequent. 

Tail biting can become extremely irritating for both owner and dog. The best way to handle the habit of tail biting is to first figure out why your dog is biting their tail and then proceed with some action steps to discourage the behavior.

Why Do Dogs Bite Their Tails

Although it’s most likely that your dog is biting their tail because of a random irritation, there is usually a reason for this irritation as well as other more obsessive behavior. Here are some other reasons why your dog may be biting their tail.

Skin Irritation

Dry skin can be caused by several factors and is often the cause of biting, scratching, and sometimes licking. Dogs use their mouths most of the time to tackle an irritation. Being able to pinpoint the type of skin irritation can be difficult as there are so many.

Allergies

Allergies are a good place to start when it comes to figuring out why your dog’s skin is irritating them. Allergies can come from other dogs, the environment, toys, or bedding. It’s a good idea to think back to anything new you have introduced into your dog’s life, whether it’s something they use or not. As an example, I bought a new natural oat dog shampoo as I thought this would be better than other more artificially enhanced dog shampoos. It turned out that the new shampoo I was using reacted with my Golden Retriever’s skin and made him itch like crazy. Admittedly it took me a while to figure this out and when I reverted back to the old shampoo he was fine again.

Walks can often trigger allergic reactions, especially during the summertime when everything is growing and there are lots of bugs around. Knowing your local environment is a good tip as it will prepare you for recognizing plants to stay away from.

Food is another surprising allergy that dogs can have. As an owner we see our dogs eat pretty much anything off of the floor, literally wherever they can find something to eat they will, especially smelly things. So I am also one who is often surprised at the reaction some food ingredients can have on your dog’s skin. It’s not going to be something that happens the majority of the time but if your dog is having allergic skin irritations then their food could be something the analyze.

Grooming

Grooming can often result in a very irritated dog. If your dog is anything like mine, after a visit to the groomer he loves nothing more than to roll around in the mud rubbing himself across the ground….why do I even try.

Of course, this is a common reaction for most dogs. Dogs have highly tuned senses of smell and they rely on scent to communicate. Rolling around often indicates their desire to leave their scent or even more likely disguise their own scent with that of the environment around them.

Despite your dog’s need to communicate its scent, grooming can be extremely intense for a dog. They have no idea why this is happening to them or when it’s going to end. The brushing and shampooing leave their skin with an irritated feeling and so naturally they will want to bite and scratch it. It’s also important to realize that your dog’s skin is covered in oils that help protect its surface and keep it from drying out. These oils are excreted from the hair follicles and if they are washed off the surface it will leave your dog’s skin dry and therefore itchy.

So if your dog is biting their tail after they have been to the groomers, it’s most likely because of the grooming itself. Your dog should also be scratching and biting other areas of its body, not just the tails.

If your dog is itching after their grooming session, check out our article all about this topic. “Why Is My Dog Itchy After Grooming”

how long does it take for dog hair to grow back

Visit the Vet

If you cant figure out why your dog’s skin is irritating them so much, take them to the vet as they will be able to give it proper assessment. As well as being able to prescribe you some creams or medicine, they will also be aware of the local area and whether any other dogs around your area have had similar skin irritations.

Bad Habits

This area of discussion will mostly involve puppies, with many owners asking why their puppy seems to bite their tail constantly.

Earlier we highlighted that tail biting wasn’t something to worry about, with the exception of obsessive biting. This is where a puppy or adult dog continues to bite at their tail cause soreness, injury and gradually making it worse over time. Habits like this may seem harmless at first but if left unaltered they can cause injuries that become infected.

Puppies are the worst culprits when it comes to biting and that doesn’t just mean their tails. Often puppies will bite their paws and legs if they can. This behavior is done through learning and puppies learn with their mouths. Although you may want to encourage this behavior if it becomes obsessive, also bear in mind that it is all part of your puppy’s development and something they should all go through. Another observation should be that your new pup is not teething and is using their body to soothe the pain. Here is some advice for those dealing with the puppy teething phase. “Puppy Teething and Nipping”

On the other hand, if your dog is behaving like this, it is best to discourage the behavior as it can often do more damage than a puppy. try using chew toys that are built for your dog’s breed. there is no reason to get your dog a small chew toy if they are a big strong dog.

Injury

Highly active dogs will often get injuries, so it’s important to spot them early if your dog is active. Dogs biting their tails can be a sign of an injury whether it be old or new.

All sorts of injuries can occur whilst out walking your dog, especially if you have them off the lead. Off lead, walking is something I would always encourage to do, although making sure that your dog is running around safely is important. One of my favorite walks to take my dog on is a woodland walk. He gets to play around with other dogs, in and out of the water and the smells available are infinite. As well as all this he loves to run through brambles and other spiky plants…I don’t know why. this means I have to call him back and calm him down, mainly because he has in the past got large thorns tangled in his bushy tail.

Injuries can occur at any time and most of that time it’s only a scratch or perhaps a small thorn. The damage comes when your dog starts to bite at its tail and create a sore area. They may be trying to tend to their wounds but if you see your dog becoming obsessed with it then it may be time to stop them.

Keeping your dog clean after a walk is a good way to reduce the chance of skin irritations or injuries that develop. Cleaning can be difficult though especially if you want a clean dog before you get back home, washing them in the car is the most ideal opportunity. Check out this article all about “How to Clean Your Dog After A Walk”. This will allow you to get most of the dirt and foliage of them, however, you may still have to bathe them when you arrive home. By doing this you can ensure your car is kept cleaner and your house may not suffer as much. Check out this article on “Keeping Your House Clean With Muddy Dogs”.

How To Stop A Dog From Biting Its Tail

Having discussed why dogs bite their tails you can now make an informed decision on whether to stop them or not. Stopping them may not be as simple as you think. if your dog has become obsessed with biting its tail your commands might fall on deaf ears. Here are a number of tips for preventing your dog from biting its tail.

  • If you haven’t already taught your dog the “Leave It” command then I would recommend that you do just that. This command has so many benefits and if taught correctly, it’s a quick fix for stopping your dog in its tracks. Check out this article by AKC explaining how to teach the leave it command. It’s also a good idea to check out youtube as this has so many easy-to-follow videos on this popular command.
  • Another option for stopping your dog from biting its tail is to offer an alternative. A good quality chew toy is the best example. If your dog is biting their tail out of frustration, boredom, or even puppy teething then chew toys are a great option. this will hopefully give them something else to enjoy biting, leaving other items to include their own tail alone.
  • If you really need to ensure that your dog doesn’t bite their tail then the use of a cone may be your best bet. I tend to try and use a medical doggy shirt if my dog has got some soreness on its body. Of course for the tail this won’t work so a cone will have to be used. This can prevent them from reaching their tail, allowing any injuries to heal without disruption from your dog’s mouth.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Tails

The most common reason dogs lick their tails is for self-grooming. For example, if your dog is wet from playing in the water they will often lick themselves dry.

As highlighted previously tail licking is attributed mainly to grooming and not so much a habit they possess. Despite this dogs will also lick themselves if they have an injury or irritation and much like tail biting licking can cause soreness in this particular area.

If your dog has started licking themselves, take similar steps as highlighted above, investigating what could be causing the licking, and rectify the situation appropriately.

If your dog is licking their paws it could be for similar reasons to tail licking. Paw licking is very common and can often involve biting paws too. Paw licking can be attributed to injury more so than tail licking as there is less to dry. However, paws can become dirty and so dogs will sometimes spend a long time getting in between their paws to ensure they are fully clean. Check out our article about paw licking here, it has a more in-depth explanation of paw licking and what you can do to manage this behavior. “Why Does My Dog Keep Licking his Paws After A Walk”.

Why does my dog lick his paws after a walk

Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tails

Dogs that chase their tails are not stupid they are playful and curious. Tail chasing is all part of being a dog, if your dog is chasing their tail it means you have a playful pal that will bring you lots of joy. Tail chasing can be seen mainly as a curious act driven into a playful one, this is why puppies are more commonly found chasing their tails. Because puppies are young they will be curious about their tails and in addition to this they are playful so will naturally want to chase them.

Conclusion

As you have seen dogs can bite their tails for a variety of reasons, although some more common than others. Try taking the steps discussed in this article and figuring out why your dog is biting their tail, this will hopefully allow you as an owner to make the correct action. If you enjoyed this article on why do dogs bite their tails then don’t forget we have more great content on our homepage.

Dean Lissaman

As a child I grew up around dogs and have loved them ever since. I now have a beloved Golden Retriever who enjoys exploring the outside world. Being an outdoor enthusiast has inspired me to create the ultimate resource on relating both dogs and the outdoors. For more information on me check out my about page.

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