Tail chasing – an obsessive compulsive disorder?

The genetics research group at the University of Helsinki has published its findings into a study of tail chasing in dogs.  The study involved 400 dogs and questionnaires to the owners about their dog’s behaviour.  Samples of each dog’s blood were also taken.

The questionnaires covered behaviours, aspects of the dog’s puppyhood and daily routines.  Owners were also asked to evaluate their dog’s personality.

Compulsive tail chasing can occur in any dog but is common in breeds such as the Bull Terrier and German Shepherd.  These breeds were included in the research, as were the Miniature Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

The study aimed to describe the characteristics of tail chasing in dogs and to ascertain the environmental risk factors for the disorder.  The researchers also wanted to know if a previously identified gene that has been associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)  had a role to play.

What they found

  • The OCD gene that had been linked to other compulsive disorders in dogs was not associated with the tail chasing disorder
  • Dogs responded with less tail chasing when fed supplements of vitamins and minerals, although the researchers feel that more study is warranted to prove this link
  • Early separation from their mothers and/or poor care from their mother also predisposed dogs to compulsive tail chasing

Dogs may be a good model for studying OCD in humans because they are physiologically similar and share our environment.  Consequently, this research has wider implications.

The research paper is available in the 27 July 2012 edition of PloS ONE

Source:  University of Helsinki press release

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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2 responses to “Tail chasing – an obsessive compulsive disorder?

  1. I think it’s just a sign of boredom and lack of exercise. If my Fox Terrier-cross hasn’t had enough exercise he often starts chasing his tail along with other ways of releasing pent up energy like running in circles around the currant bushes in the garden. As long as he has a walk once a day he doesn’t do it.

  2. Pingback: Emotions matter: a dog’s view of facial expressions | DoggyMom.com

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