Compulsive Canines

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-yes, dogs have it. I was reminded of my dog’s compulsive behavior this morning as her head went from the water bowl to the foot bowl-nose touching each, then touching the floor outside the bowl in a sweeping motion. Oreo would touch the water, the food, then the floor, around and around. I happened to be standing near her, so I interrupted the behavior by throwing another small tidbit of chicken in her bowl. This discontinued her behavior.
Oreo used to do this A LOT before we did training and added anxiety meds. She would not only make a mess in her food, but she would spend over 15 minutes with this round about behavior. When she was younger, she also had obsessive fixation on certain toys. It wasn’t the cute kind of fetch or chewing, it was very aggressive, whale eye, I can’t stop myself from chewing this ball/bone/toy. 

  
So where do these obsessive behaviors come from? Obsessive behaviors that interfere with your dog’s life should be checked out by a veterinarian. Your vet can rule out any medical problems. Many obsessive behaviors can be neurological, while others can be caused by anxiety or environment. Dogs that are very intense, hyper, motivated, and in the working group are the canines most likely to develop obsessive compulsive behaviors. 

It’s best to address these issues when they start. Here are some ways to treat the behavior:

Create a routine. Many times these behaviors can be from stress or anxiety. A clear and regular routine could soothe your dog’s fears and reduce the ocd behavior.

Exercise. Exercise will not only help keep your dog’s mind at ease, but it will help them feel better.

Try T-touch or massages (if your dog is used to them, if not-read up on T-touch it has many benefits). This can relax your dog and release stress.

Use a thunder-shirt to help your dog relax (it has helped my dog!)

Train your dog using positive training. This will allow your dog to know what’s expected and if you want to interrupt the behavior, you can with some tricks you taught your pup.

Involve a positive trainer. Trainers can help identify what your dog is motivated by and stressed by. They can also teach incompatible behaviors. For example, my dog is highly driven by food and toy rewards. When she started her food/water obsessive behavior, I interrupted it by adding some chicken to her food. I also can stop her excessive licking by giving her a toy. 

Training and routine are VERY important for dogs that are stressed-so is exercise. Try writing down the things that stress your dog. Next, eliminate them if you can. If you can’t eliminate the stress, then manage it, train your dog, make a positive association, or give them something else to do (example: if they are stressed by you leaving, give them a kong filled with peanut butter when you walk out the door). If you have tried all of these it may be time to visit a behavioral veterinarian. They will be able to help you analyze your dog’s behavior, try training and medicine to help.

Don’t be afraid to use medicine if training does not work. Find a GREAT positive trainer (your dog deserves the best). If with training the compulsive behavior does not work, get a vet involved. Put yourself in your dog’s paws-would you want to be in their position? Wouldn’t you want help? Help your pup!!!

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