A Vicious Cycle: A Cross-Sectional Study of Canine Tail-Chasing and Human Responses to It, Using a Free Video-Sharing Website
Figure 1. Screenshot of a video of a Golden Retriever chasing its tail on YouTube™.
"Tail-chasing is widely celebrated as normal canine behaviour in cultural references. However, all previous scientific studies of tail-chasing or ‘spinning’ have comprised small clinical populations of dogs with neurological, compulsive or other pathological conditions; most were ultimately euthanased. Thus, there is great disparity between scientific and public information on tail-chasing. I gathered data on the first large (n = 400), non-clinical tail-chasing population, made possible through a vast, free, online video repository, YouTube™. The demographics of this online population are described and discussed. Approximately one third of tail-chasing dogs showed clinical signs, including habitual (daily or ‘all the time’) or perseverative (difficult to distract) performance of the behaviour. These signs were observed across diverse breeds. Clinical signs appeared virtually unrecognised by the video owners and commenting viewers; laughter was recorded in 55% of videos, encouragement in 43%, and the commonest viewer descriptors were that the behaviour was ‘funny’ (46%) or ‘cute’ (42%). Habitual tail-chasers had 6.5+/−2.3 times the odds of being described as ‘Stupid’ than other dogs, and perseverative dogs were 6.8+/−2.1 times more frequently described as ‘Funny’ than distractible ones were. Compared with breed- and age-matched control videos, tail-chasing videos were significantly more often indoors and with a computer/television screen switched on. These findings highlight that tail-chasing is sometimes pathological, but can remain untreated, or even be encouraged, because of an assumption that it is ‘normal’ dog behaviour. The enormous viewing figures that YouTube™ attracts (mean+/−s.e. = 863+/−197 viewings per tail-chasing video) suggest that this perception will be further reinforced, without effective intervention." Bonus Table:
Table 2. Human encouragement and responses to tail-chasing in dogs on YouTube™.
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