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Why are we studying spinning and tail chasing behaviour?

In some cases, a dog may display spinning so frequently that owners find it distressing or a nuisance. Some dogs may also catch their tails and chew the tip, causing damage. However, it is unknown to what extent showing this type of behaviour is a welfare concern for the dogs themselves, so investigating how the occurrence of this behaviour relates to other indicators of welfare is a key part of our project. The indicators of welfare that we are using include behavioural measures (including a novel test which gives an indication about mood state) and hormonal indicators of the stress response.

Evidence from other species suggests that the development of behaviours, such as spinning, are influenced by individual differences in behavioural characteristics or personality. In particular, the characteristic of ‘perseveration’ (persisting at a task, rather than trying something different) is suggested to be a factor in the development of these behaviours. Our study therefore also aims to measure this characteristic in both affected and unaffected dogs. This may enable us to identify dogs ‘at risk’ of developing these behaviours when in stressful situations.

Study aims

  1. To better understand abnormal repetitive behaviour in dogs by categorising the types of cases which occur. 
  2. To investigate whether dogs that spin or chase their tails show greater signs of ‘perseveration’ than dogs that do not.
  3. To identify whether dogs that spin or tail chase differ from unaffected dogs in behavioural and physiological indicators of welfare. 
  4. To communicate our findings with the dog owning community.

This project is being run and supported by a team of researchers who bring a wide range of skills and knowledge to the project. To find out more about the people involved, use the 'Researchers' tab at the top of the page.
To find out more about the great work that Dogs Trust do for the welfare of dogs in the UK, visit their website following the link

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