Do you often catch your puppy chewing his tail? Is it normal for puppies to do this? How can you stop it? Here are some common reasons why your puppy may be biting his tail and how you should respond.
So, why does my puppy bite his tail? Puppies tend to bite their tail when they’re curious about their tail, or they’re feeling bored. Sometimes, though, tail biting can be a sign of something more serious, such as an allergic reaction, pain, irritation from fleas or other parasites, or anxiety. More rarely, puppies can chew at their tails if they have internal damage to their spines or tails.
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Like with most puppy behaviors, there is no one definitive reason that I can give you.
It’s going to depend a lot on your puppy and the circumstances.
So with this in mind, let us walk through the common reasons in further detail before looking at how you should appropriately respond.
Reasons Why Puppies Bite Their Tails
Here are more details about why puppies bite their tails.
It could be that your puppy is allergic to something that’s making him very itchy.
Most allergens are either fleas or something in your dog’s diet (soy, wheat, corn, dairy, and beef are the most common culprits).
Sometimes the problem is due to a reaction to something in your puppy’s environment.
Grass, weed pollen, mildew, and mold are all common environmental allergens. Your puppy might even be allergic to the shampoo or soap that you use in his bath.
Regardless of the source of the allergy, reactions are at their strongest in your puppy’s early life.
The period between 3 months and 6 years old is when your dog is most susceptible to allergies.
Parasites such as fleas, ticks, mites, and worms can cause a lot of discomfort for your puppy.
Sometimes puppies are allergic to the saliva of the fleas, which can cause a lot of itching.
If your puppy has tapeworms or roundworms, his anus can become irritated and therefore sore and itchy.
Puppies catch tapeworms by either eating a flea that is carrying tapeworm eggs or getting bitten by a flea.
Roundworms are common in puppies and can be transmitted to us through their stool.
When the area around your puppy’s anus is affected, he will often bite at the base of his tail to find relief.
Sometimes the area around your puppy’s anus can become itchy through poor hygiene.
The hair can get matted with pieces of feces, irritating and infecting the skin. Your puppy can even pick up maggots from flies that are attracted to the feces.
An Injured Tail
If your puppy has hurt his tail, this may cause him to bite at it.
An injured tail can be very painful, especially if there’s a cut, dislocation, or fracture.
Anxiety or stress can cause your puppy to bite his tail excessively as a form of relief.
Consider whether there are new circumstances at home that your puppy has had to deal with.
Common problems that can lead to anxiety are:
- Fireworks or other loud noises
- The arrival of a new pet or another member of the family
- Unfamiliar people visiting
- Moving to a new house
Unlike physical problems, tail biting that comes from behavioral problems can sometimes turn into compulsive behavior.
It’s essential to help your puppy as soon as you notice anything amiss (see below), or they keep looking behind them!
Is It Normal For Puppies To Bite Their Tails?
It’s perfectly normal for young puppies to chew at their tails somewhat. As they become more aware of their body parts, they begin to look at their tail as a toy rather than as part of their bodies.
Imagine your puppy wondering what that thing is that’s following him around – he’s tempted to grab it and have a chew.
When they are young, puppies explore the world with their mouths, and this includes their tails.
Take note of how often your puppy chews his tail.
If he does it after a playful spinning session where he’s been chasing his tail, this is totally normal. You don’t need to intervene most of the time.
If you notice your puppy suddenly biting his tail when he wasn’t doing this before, check for any injuries.
Take your pup to your vet for a checkup if you suspect that something’s wrong.
Note: Some breeds do appear to be more interested in their tails than others. German Shepherds seem to go after their tails more than other breeds, although no one knows why. Some breeds like Bull Terriers are also more likely to go after their tails. Dogs with corkscrew tails are more prone to infections and therefore may bite their tails more often.
Should You Stop Your Puppy from Biting Its Tail?
You don’t usually need to stop your puppy from biting his tail unless he appears to be doing it excessively.
Puppies are discovering their bodies and the world around them, and they use their mouths to do it. The peak of their ‘mouthing’ behavior hits between five and six months of age.
Most of the time, your puppy will grow out of biting his tail once he’s about eight months old.
You usually won’t need to stop your puppy from biting his tail.
Just take note of when he tends to bite his tail so that you can become aware of any potential triggers or habits that he might pick up.
Sometimes puppies will bite their tails if they know they will get attention from their people.
Puppies crave attention in any form, positive or negative. Bear this in mind when reacting to your puppy: it’s usually best to ignore the behavior that you don’t want.
Scolding your puppy when he bites his tail might be seen as negative reinforcement.
He might prefer to be scolded than not to have any attention at all, which can lead to him being more fearful over time.
If you see your puppy biting his tail too much and you don’t suspect any health problems, use positive reinforcement to reward the behavior you want to encourage (see below).
Pay attention to where your puppy is biting his tail. Is he always biting the same area?
If so, he could be suffering from parasites. Use a flea or tick comb to comb his tail and check for unwanted visitors there.
Does your puppy scoot across the floor at all? If he does, he might be trying to soothe an impacted anal area (which will require a vet’s attention).
Check your puppy’s tail for any scratches or wounds. If he’s chewing on an open wound, it can quickly become infected. Prevention is better than cure!
How Do I Stop My Puppy Biting His Tail?
If you feel that your puppies tail biting is getting out of hand, or you do want to put an end to it, there are various ways to approach it, depending on the cause.
For Medical Causes
If your puppy is biting his tail because of a suspected allergy, worms, or another medical condition, the obvious first stop is the vet.
In addition to tail-biting, common signs of allergies are:
- Swelling (usually from a food allergy)
- Hives (also due to food allergies)
- Excessive scratching or licking paws (usually from an environmental allergy)
Note: If your puppy starts to have difficulty breathing, get him to the vet immediately. Breathing troubles could be a sign of anaphylactic shock, which could be fatal.
Your vet will test for allergens and other health issues and then prescribe the appropriate treatment:
- Treatment for allergies. Allergies are usually treated with medications.
- Treatment for parasites. External parasites like ticks, fleas, or mites will be treated with preventative medication. Internal parasites like worms are treated with dewormer medications.
- Treatment for an injured tail. If your vet takes X-rays and discovers a fracture, your puppy’s tail may need a splint. If there are any cuts or abrasions, your vet will clean them and give you an antibiotic ointment to apply to your pup. Once the tail is bandaged, your puppy will most likely need to wear an Elizabethan collar.
For Behavioral Problems
If your puppy is suffering from stress, anxiety, or boredom, there are several things you can do to help him.
- Medications. Sometimes puppies with behavior problems can be helped with medications.
- Animal behaviorists. Other times, an animal behaviorist is the best solution to provide expert advice and training.
- Proper exercise. If your puppy is bored, he will benefit from the right amount of exercise and stimulation, both mental and physical. Be sure to play games with him and give him lots of your time, which is precious to him! You can also try Kong balls or other toys that will make him think.
You can train your puppy to stop biting his tail yourself, using positive reinforcement or distractions.
Try to identify the triggers that cause your puppy to start chewing his tail. You can then avoid this behavior by distracting your puppy before he starts chewing.
- If your puppy gets stressed when you leave him alone, use crate training to teach him to enjoy a safe space that’s all for him.
- If your puppy tends to get anxious around people or other dogs, start by getting him used to one friendly dog or one dog-loving guest. Go at your puppy’s pace, and don’t overwhelm him with too many stimuli at one time.
- If your puppy gets overexcited when he sees a bird and starts chewing on his tail, initiate a game of fetch as soon as a bird comes into view.
Puppies may bite their tails for a multitude of different reasons.
It not typically the result of one particular cause.
There could be many different things going on simultaneously, too.
So, observe your puppy, look for other signs, behaviors, or symptoms.
And if in doubt, consult your vet. There may be something more sinister going on.
Especially if this is a new behavior or if it is starting to become persistent!
Have other questions about puppy biting or other related behavior? Well, my following guides may be of help:
- Why Does My Puppy Lunge At My Face?
- Why Does My Puppy Bite His Paws?
- Why Does My Puppy Bite Me When I Pet Him?
- Why Does My Puppy Growl When I Pick Him Up?
- Why Does My Puppy Bite My Ears?
- Why Does My Puppy Have Hiccups?
- Why Does My Puppy Pee In Her Sleep?
- Why Does My Puppy Lick My Feet?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.