Obsessively, Compulsively Chasing Tail Is An Irritating Habit

Obsessively, compulsively  chasing tail is an irritating habit that dog owners have to put up with. It seems that dogs share with us humans the problems of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). So the question is: are dogs a good model for this type of human behavior? The response to medication, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, apparently suggests that they may be.

In last weeks Public Library of Science, Tiira et al chose 368 dogs from 4 breeds that seem to have a greater propensity for seeing tail and thinking “must catch it” (1). German Shepherd and 3 types of Bull Terrier were the breed candidates. They utilized character and environmental factors to compare inveterate tail chasers with non-tail chasers.

Personality-wise, shyer dogs were more likely to be tail chasers, as were those living alone or in a house with no children. So, boredom early on may have triggered the onset. Vitamin B6 and C are good supplements to give your dog as these resulted in a lowered incidence of tail chasing. Genetic analysis didn’t pick up anything significant, so we can’t blame their moms and dads.

However, there was a correlation from being taken away from their mom too early. So does that mean that OCD in humans can be encouraged by early return to work using poor quality childcare? Neutering didn’t have much effect although there was a small effect for females who were heavily into OCD, but that isn’t an option for people. Vitamin supplements would be though and lots of fun stimulation might both work their magic.

You’ve got to catch them early though – its too late for some of today’s politicos who seem determined to chase their tails (or someone else’s if it becomes on offer and vitamin supplements won’t help).


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