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How to Deal with Compulsive Canine Behavior
06/16/15 at 11:33 AM | Published Under Dog Behavior
Compulsion is a clinical illness that’s not confined to human behavior. Canines may also suffer from the disorder, with the most prevalent obsessive traits being:
- Chasing shadows, the tail, cars and prey
- Constant digging or circling
- Fixating on or hoarding toys
- Grooming to the point of self-mutilation
- Racing back and forth along a fence line
- Spinning when crated
Regardless of the action and how harmless it might appear, it’s important for pet parents to understand that compulsive behavior can prove both physically and mentally dangerous for pets.
If your dog is exhibiting compulsive behaviors, consult your veterinarian for a thorough physical examination and blood panel to determine if behavior might be related to a physical condition or disease. For example, grooming to excess could result from an allergic reaction irritating the skin rather than obsessive-compulsive disorder. In this case, a dietary change may do the trick. If the behavior does not stem from physical ailments, your veterinarian may try prescribing an anti-anxiety serotonin enhancer.
Even if medication is prescribed, compulsive behaviors are best treated with the help of behavior modification assistance from a dog training expert. Your veterinarian may be the best resource for a recommendation. If not, visit the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers at www.ccpdt.org.
Many canines displaying compulsive or obsessive behavior are simply short on adequate exercise. Pent-up energy could result from being alone in a yard all day, being crated too long, or simply being deprived of mental stimulation and interaction with humans. Negative activities like spinning or running “laps” typically indicate anxiety or frustration. To help modify the behavior, play fetch, chase and tug-of-war or take him on a daily 30-minute walk. These activities will benefit you as well!
Once you have determined what triggers your dog’s compulsive or obsessive state, tune into signals that indicate recurrence. For example, if your dog excessively grooms himself or his toys with constant licking, try distracting him a squeaky dog toy or practice simple commands like shake, sit and stay, rewarding with dog treats for good behavior. Often times the introduction of new stimuli will help redirect focus on the new activity. Through awareness, positive reinforcement, and patience, pet parents can make a significant difference in reshaping a dog’s obsessive behaviors while also strengthening the bond between them.