Spinning, or tail-chasing, in canines can often be a harmless expression of excitement that we dismiss as cute or funny. Yet according to certified applied animal behaviorist, Dr. Alice Moon-Fanelli, that spinning also has a dark side and can be indicative of a neurological disorder.
Using bull terriers as models, she and Dr. Nicholas Dodman conducted studies that revealed the spinning behavior to be a sign of compulsive disorder or autism. She told The Huffington Post that even though dogs cannot express anxiety or obsessiveness, the symptoms tracked in the bull terriers were very similar to those found in humans who suffer from these conditions.
“The spinning behavior can be genetic, or can be the dog responding to some stress in their life," Fanelli said. "Eventually, as the disease becomes more ingrained, the dogs can lose control of their ability to start or stop the behavior."
She notes that stress in a dog’s life exacerbates the behavior, but that stress may not necessarily be due to abuse or solitary confinement. It can be triggered by something as simple as allergies or fleas. A change of environment, new people, changing schedules, new children or strange sounds can also be cause for anxiety.
In order to work towards remedying the spinning, an owner must first identify these triggers and either eliminate them, desensitize the dog to them or seek medication from a veterinarian to help their pet’s anxiety levels.