Why do dogs chase their tails?
To connect their front end with their hind end.
The number one motive of all animal behavior is to-connect-the-front-end-with-the-hind-end in order to “ground” stimulation. This is because when a dog is stimulated, it’s just as if the dog is cut in half, in other words, the dog’s center-of-consciousness is wholly centered in its head and it can’t feel a thing.
Generally when I tell people that an animals’ front-end-is-not-necessarily-connected-to-its-hind-end meaning that an animal needs to feel resonant with their surroundings in order to feel connected to their body, understandably they find such a notion hard to believe. How could a dog not know that its hind end is part of its front end no-matter-what? Then after one seminar several years ago a participant sent me the link below to a video on the internet. I suggest you mute the volume so that the laughter in the background won’t obscure the profound principle that is actually being revealed through this dog’s behavior.
This poor dog has no idea it’s attacking its own foot because it takes a feeling for an animal to have a sense of its body and every feeling is dependant on a sense of resonance with the external surroundings. And when a dog’s body is impacted by something that doesn’t resonate with a feeling, instincts and habits from the Big-Brain in its head run the show. In this state, such a dog is “referencing” the inner ear balance system in its head and is so preoccupied that it has no "idea" what the rest of its body is doing because it’s not feeling the rest of its body. The state of disconnect can become so total that even physical sensations from the hind end can be tuned out. So in this video while one end of the dog is gnawing on the bone, the other end of the dog, its foot, by straying into the dog’s peripheral vision is triggering the physical memory of having once been attacked by another dog and this is all it’s perceiving and experiencing by the encroachment of its foot. The unfortunate dog is doomed to relive the memory every time it’s in an analogous situation. I once witnessed a Scotty gnawing on a bone go into a full fledged attack mode when being buzzed by a fly and it acted just as if it was dealing with a huge Saint Bernard looming over its head.
So a behaviorist would say that a dog chases its tail because the tail is moving and the canine prey instinct evolved to reflexively chase that which moves, especially when bored. But this explanation misses the far more fundamental point that such a dog is responding reflexively to a fundamental paradox of its hardware and which motivates it to connect with those things in its environment that can connect its front-end-to-its-rear-end. Dogs that have been chronically overly stimulated, and puppies, are those especially prone to chase the nearest thing that’s moving and they have no "idea" they’re chasing a part of their own body.
As funny or pathetic as some of these behaviors may strike us, the truth is that because a dog’s sense of its body is directly related to a feeling that connects it to its surroundings, we have identified a perfect platform for an auto-tuning/feedback dynamic that lends intelligence to how animals respond to the world. Animals need external objects of attraction in order to connect-the-front-end-to-the-hind-end and experience a true feeling. And therefore while some dogs become addicted to tail chasing in order to address the fundamental problem of their emotional makeup, nonetheless all dogs are social by their nature and so they are most vulnerable to this affliction.