We are often called in to help owners whose dogs have become obsessed with an activity or show unwanted behaviour as a result of certain stimuli. It becomes such a nuisance or even a danger to the dog (self harming) that the owner realises that what may have originally been amusing or even encouraged is now totally out of hand. OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) occurs in humans, and in dogs it is a learned automatic response to certain triggers. Over a period of time the dog develops behaviour such as barking at shadows, clouds, car headlights, manically chewing a door frame when the door bell rings or just lying and sucking a blanket for hours on end. Even “minor” OCD behaviours can prevent a dog from leading a normal life, i.e. gazing into a tree for hours looking for the squirrel it saw three weeks ago, obsession with ball play, obsessive response to chasing cars, bikes and more, which can if not prevented, lead to serious accidents, both for the dog and others. Very occasionally, a behaviour may be the result of a medical problem, so it is important to rule that out by checking with your vet. The good news is that if the behaviour is purely a learned response and not medical, then behaviour training can reduce and often completely eradicate the issue by employing the methods shown to you by your Bark Buster therapist.
OCD behaviours are often caused by stress, anxiety or boredom or with such “games” as getting a dog to chase a torch beam or laser beam. The dog’s body will release certain chemicals during such “play” creating excitement and the physical response releases tension leading to a learned desire for the dog to repeat the action, again and again. In self motivated OCD’s i.e. air licking, tail chasing, cloud staring it is usually the human reaction to it that inadvertently encourages the behaviour.
Excessive digging, barking, pacing and tail chasing is often caused by boredom and in these situations it is important to engage your dog in alternative activities; both mental and physical, a tired dog is a happy dog. This doesn’t mean you have to walk your dog for 3 hours! Mental activities like hide and seek the toy, or treat, training, agility, flyball, providing interactive toys and a good long chew on a recreational bone will help to divert his attention. However, walks are an important part of a dog’s life, so if your time is limited, consider employing one of the many excellent dog walking services or doggy daycare facilities that are a growing area for hard pressed dog owners. By reducing boredom in this way, you will be improving the bond with your dog, his ability to relax and to de-stress thereby reducing the need to employ the OCD techniques previously displayed.
OCD can also be influenced by your dog’s genetic make-up; some breeds of dogs are pre-disposed to these behaviors, such as tail chasing in German Shepherds, Dobermans sucking their skin, and the various problems associated with the working or herding dogs, such as Border Collies, who often become obsessed by a seeming “need” to herd/chase anything that moves.
The huge variety of obsessive behaviours may be caused by many other reasons. In some cases, there may be a physical problem; a spine slightly out of alignment may cause pressure on nerves creating a tingling sensation in tail or foot, producing spinning and tail or leg chewing. Occasionally, more serious issues such as, epilepsy, hypothyroidism or brain lesions may be a contributing factor.
As you can see, there can be any number of underlying reasons contributing to obsessive behaviours. It is therefore essential that a full investigation into those reasons is carried out by experts who will asses your dog and if a medical or physical reason is suspected, ask you to rule this out by a vet check prior to any tailor made behaviour therapy starting.
These behaviours distress human owners as much as their dog, but Bark Busters therapy and advice on regime change, have achieved excellent results. We have over 20 years experience in diagnosing and eliminating these worrying issues allowing both dog and owner to have a happier and more rewarding life together.