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D2006-23

Dear Daisy Dog

My name is JoJo, and I am an 8-year-old German shepherd. My family rescued me four years ago from a dark basement where I lived in isolation.

Whenever I get excited or anxious, I chase and chew my tail. My worst times are when Mom runs the vacuum cleaner, my family plays with the other dogs, and when I am outside in the yard.I’m getting dizzy! Please help me stop chasing my tail.

Daisy Responds

Even if you had grown up with the perfect first family, you still might chase your tail.

Veterinarians suspect tail chasing may be an inherited trait, because it occurs most commonly in certain breeds: German shepherds and bull terriers.

Despite your genetic predisposition, treatment can be successful.

Start with a predictable routine to help you feel more secure. Develop a consistent schedule for eating, playing, exercising and obedience training.

Your humans should not reinforce your tail chasing by laughing or even punishing you. Instead, they should teach you alternate behaviors.

For example, when they run the vacuum cleaner or play with the other dogs, they should distract you with a food-filled toy, or encourage you to fetch a ball or find a chew toy.

Your people are only human, so they will need help desensitizing you to the situations that trigger tail chasing.

They should consult a veterinarian who specializes in behavior problems, who can prescribe a medication for obsessive-compulsive disorder that helps tail chasers.

Studies have shown that some tail-chasing shepherds have brain waves that suggest a seizure-like disorder, so you, like those dogs, might respond to treatment with anti-seizure medications.

So have your veterinarian confirm that you have no physical problems causing the tail chasing and then recommend a veterinary behaviorist.

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