Continuously chasing his tail

Posted by mzmercury
Dec 1, 2007
A mixed breed dog was dropped off at our ranch about a week ago. My husband is adamant that we get rid of the dog but he's rather unattractive and has quite a few behavior issues so I know he would just be put down if he were taken to the shelter so I thought I would try to "fix" some of his behavior problems and see if we can't fold him into our household.

He currently chases vehicles of any sort, cars, bikes, skateboards and if you are holding something in your hand, he will jump up and try to grab it from you but his most pressing concern is his tail chasing. I'd have to say he does it 30-40 times a day and will continue it until he is exhausted.

After some online searching, I see that this behavior can come from several places but I'm going to start with some behavior modification and go from there. Any thoughts on where to start with the tail chasing?

Thanks in advance to anyone that might have some ideas...

Posted by MartyEd
Dec 12, 2007
Hi there Theresa,

Thank you for your post regarding your newly adopted older dog that loves chasing things, especially it's own tail!! This, in this frequency, definitely sounds as though the dog has developed an obsessive compulsive disorder, which while can be helped with on going training, it best helped with training combined with concurrent behavioral altering medication such as clomicalm or clomipramine. For this reason, I would first and foremost recommend you take your dog to your local Veterinarian for a check up and behavioral assessment to confirm or deny the OCD I am suspecting.

In order to help your dog help itself with regards to the chasing problem, I would definitely recommend first reinforcing yourself and your family as the alpha dogs of the household. The techniques outlined in the bonus book “Secrets to Becoming the Alpha Dog” do take time to have an effect on a dog, and so I would urge you to continue with these techniques.

This includes, as you know:
If you come across your dog while he is sleeping or lying on the floor then you can reinforce your position as alpha dog by making his move so that you can pass by.
Generally I do not recommend people give their dogs bones as this encourages the aggression, because in the wild the alpha dog would be the only one to have the privilege of chewing the bones. The reason your dog growls at you when you approach it with a bone is because it believes that it has the right to the bone and is trying to discipline you for challenging your dog for its dominant role.
Make sure that you always go through doorways first. A good method to reinforce your position as alpha dog is to walk your dog around the house on the leash, making your dog wait while you walk through doorways first. At mealtimes make sure that your dog or dogs eat after all of the humans have.
Do not feed your dog tidbits or let it pester you at the table. Save the morsels and tidbits for training sessions instead.
Do not greet your dog straightaway when you arrive home. Make it wait until you are ready and then call it to you.
When your dog wants to go outside for a walk, make it sit and wait until you are ready to go. Note that this technique doesn't apply when house breaking.
When you give a command make sure that you are in a position to enforce the action that you require from your dog, especially in the initial stages of Alpha Dog training. Also, use the Alarm-No-Command technique as described in the Alpha Dog bonus book to reprimand your dog if it does not obey your command.
It is vitally important that your dog has good all-round obedience skills. Regular training sessions are key to improving your dog's obedience responses and keeping it used to answering your commands. Concentrate on the sit and stay, down and stay, heel and wait commands.
Do not inadvertently reinforce poor behavior from your dog. You must be consistent in your attitude to your dog. For example, if your dog is allowed to jump on you when you are playing with it but is not allowed to jump up at any other time then how is it meant to know the difference?

Please continue with these techniques for the next two months - you will find that with time your dog becomes a lot more responsive to your commands and you will be able to train him much more easily. If your dog does in fact have an OCD problem then do not excessively reprimand the tail chasing as this may make in fact make it worse. Also make sure that your dog has enough mental stimulation if you are leaving him at home alone. This will include ensuring that he is regularly walked daily and also ensure he has something to play with around the house such as a Kong or similar toy in which he has to spend some time with and think before being rewarded for his efforts. Also, as above, be sure to visit your Vet for his or her advice regarding the excessive tail chasing.

As for chasing other objects you will have to make sure that you avoid situations where your dog may chase a vehicle. It is obviously not safe to let your dog chase the cars or trucks, and in order to correct this behavior the dog has to learn that it is not successful in chasing away the trucks or cars. With the chasing of cars and vehicles, the dog thinks that it is defending you by chasing the vehicles away! So in the mind of your dog, even though it never catches one, it is victorious!

You can practice training your dog to not chase bicycles, but motor vehicles can become risky. You could try doing it with a lead on her however. Hopefully your dog will get the message that it is not meant to chase anything!

1. Have a friend ride a bike past you and your dog, allow the dog to chase the cyclist where it is safe to do so).
2. The friend will then simply stop cycling, and turn and squirt the dog with a water pistol filled with cold water.
3. Repeat this a few times.
4. Then have your dog on a lead, and as your friend on the bicycle flies by, make the dog sit and stay. Reward your dog whenever it obeys.

The previous exercise could be done with a motor vehicle driving at a very low speed and with your dog on a leash, however you would need to be VERY careful if you were to attempt this to avoid running the dog over! Get a friend to drive a car past you and your dog very slowly, when the dog starts pulling and lunging towards the car get your friend to slow down and stop and bring your dog over to the car where she gets growled at “AAAAAAAH” in a guttural growl as well as being squirted with water.

By undertaking training such as this daily for around a month – on top of alpha dog training – you should notice a distinct difference in your dog’s behavior! Be sure to reinforce appropriate behaviors and reprimand any chasing your dog does while it is under your control.

Best of luck with this chasing problem and please let us know how this particular method goes for you.

Kind Regards,

Mark Edwards