Biting his Tail?

My basenji, Jack, has quite an odd behavioral issue. The first half of it is understandable, but the second half honestly makes no sense to me.

Jack doesn't like to be bothered at all while he is sleeping, when he just woke up, or if he is just plain tired. He'll snap at you, growl at you. You know, like a lot of dogs do. Even if you just walk by him while he's tired, he growl at you.

The odd part is what else he does. When Jack is angry, he'll stand up and chase his tail, biting it. He growls the whole time he does this, and he doesn't sound happy at all. It's like he bites himself instead of biting the "intruder".

Does anyone else's basenji do this? Is there anything I could do to get Jack to stop?

Thanks in advance!

  • Erin 🙂

Sounds like transferred aggression to me. My guy does something similar when frustrated, although he doesn't usually actually bite his tail. He also sometimes spins and tail chases when excited…...especially when running on windy days!

I find it's not unusual for Basenjis to resent being bothered when they are comfortable. How you react to it can make the difference between escalation and diminishing of the behaviour. Personally I try to avoid provoking a snarky reaction, but if it does occur I will not allow the dog to back me down. I would probably insist he move from his comfortable spot, but don't do this if it is likely to result in a bite. Ignoring the behaviour or making fun of it can work. Hard to know without seeing the dog in action. How old is Jack? How long have you had him?

O.K. I see you got him last year at six weeks old, and that he has had biting issues before. Sorry, I didn't remember but I just check the old threads. How are the biting issues other than when he is comfortable? Has he learned to inhibit his bite?

What does he get angry about that makes him start chasing his tail? Not a behavior that I have ever seen….

And from the time mine were babies, they were handled, especially when sleeping...... woken up at different times, so that all of that becomes normal activity.

However, since you got him at 6 wks, a lot of this is due (IMO) to him being taken away from his littermates and Mom way, way too young. In most states the law for selling puppies is that the must be 8wks old.

@eeeefarm:

Sounds like transferred aggression to me. My guy does something similar when frustrated, although he doesn't usually actually bite his tail. He also sometimes spins and tail chases when excited…...especially when running on windy days!

I find it's not unusual for Basenjis to resent being bothered when they are comfortable. How you react to it can make the difference between escalation and diminishing of the behaviour. Personally I try to avoid provoking a snarky reaction, but if it does occur I will not allow the dog to back me down. I would probably insist he move from his comfortable spot, but don't do this if it is likely to result in a bite. Ignoring the behaviour or making fun of it can work. Hard to know without seeing the dog in action. How old is Jack? How long have you had him?

O.K. I see you got him last year at six weeks old, and that he has had biting issues before. Sorry, I didn't remember but I just check the old threads. How are the biting issues other than when he is comfortable? Has he learned to inhibit his bite?

He's actually two and a half, but yeah, I got him when he was six weeks old. He doesn't bite people anymore. He only bites his tail, which is the weirdest thing ever. (IMO).

@tanza:

What does he get angry about that makes him start chasing his tail? Not a behavior that I have ever seen….

And from the time mine were babies, they were handled, especially when sleeping...... woken up at different times, so that all of that becomes normal activity.

However, since you got him at 6 wks, a lot of this is due (IMO) to him being taken away from his littermates and Mom way, way too young. In most states the law for selling puppies is that the must be 8wks old.

Well, he doesn't bite people. He only bites his own tail. And he never used to do this. Only the past couple of months. He started to bite his tail around March of this year. We held him while he slept as a puppy, like all the time. Like I said, it's kind of a new thing he's been doing.

I'm glad to hear he no longer bites people. That is a definite improvement! The tail biting can be a number of things. Are there specific circumstances when he does it, or is it random? Anal gland issues can be a factor. Frustration can be a factor, as in my dog. If he is spinning as well as tail biting there can be a genetic component. (Basenjis are not noted as spinners, but several other breeds have issues in this area). One of my girls used to "rat" her tail, but that appeared to be a contact allergy issue. So under what circumstances does he decide his tail offends him? 🙂

@eeeefarm:

I'm glad to hear he no longer bites people. That is a definite improvement! The tail biting can be a number of things. Are there specific circumstances when he does it, or is it random? Anal gland issues can be a factor. Frustration can be a factor, as in my dog. If he is spinning as well as tail biting there can be a genetic component. (Basenjis are not noted as spinners, but several other breeds have issues in this area). One of my girls used to "rat" her tail, but that appeared to be a contact allergy issue. So under what circumstances does he decide his tail offends him? 🙂

He will only bite his tail when he is tired if someone walks by or touches him. He will usually spin around two or three times and then he'll stop spinning and just nibble his tail for a few more minutes and then go back to sleep.

Sounds like transferred aggression to me. He knows not to bite the person, but is annoyed enough that he wants to take it out on something, and his tail is handy. 🙂 I wouldn't worry about it if it doesn't get worse. I also wouldn't provoke it. Avoid annoying him if you can and the behaviour may extinguish on its own.

@eeeefarm:

Sounds like transferred aggression to me. He knows not to bite the person, but is annoyed enough that he wants to take it out on something, and his tail is handy. 🙂 I wouldn't worry about it if it doesn't get worse. I also wouldn't provoke it. Avoid annoying him if you can and the behaviour may extinguish on its own.

Okay! Thanks for all your help!

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