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I have a six year old, 10 pound chi-dachshund mix named Hobbles. We adopted her from a shelter in March. She has mange on her back which makes us think that she may have suffered some neglect/malnutrition but she is very friendly so we have no reason to believe that she was ever physically abused. Hobbles has a strange behavior pattern we’ve noticed that I wanted to ask about. This occurs often when we put her in her crate, but occasionally with no clear antecedent whatsoever. She suddenly begins chasing her tail frantically, as if trying to attack herself, making aggressive noises. We call it her “manic attacks” because that’s the best way to describe it. Usually she does it once or twice for a few seconds at a time, but in severe cases it has occurred off and on for several minutes. What could this be and why do you think she does this?
 

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Could be a lot of things. My first thought would be to rule out pain/itching - from mange or anything else. But because it's triggered by going in the crate, I wonder if it might be more of a frustration behavior, something developed while confined and unable to entertain herself or have an outlet for any anxieties. This can happen sometimes in neglect cases, but also in dogs who are in the shelter for a while and have trouble coping with that stressful environment. If that's the case, it may even have started as an itch/pain but now it's just become a habit.

There are dogs who tail chase compulsively, and it seems to have a significant neurological/genetic component, but I doubt that's what's happening here. It's rare outside of the affected breeds (Bull Terrier and German Shepherd are the big ones), and not even super common in those breeds. So I'd assume it's an attempt to relieve discomfort and/or learned stress response.

I haven't read too much about treating these kinds of behaviors in dogs, but making sure she has stress-relieving alternatives like chew toys (esp. ones stuffed with goodies, just make sure to calculate it into her daily calorie intake) and lots of good enrichment and mental stimulation will help any dog's quality of life!
 
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