Is your dog chasing their tail obsessively or sucking continually on their paws? The term "obsession" may be reserved for humans, but your persistent pooch may have a condition called canine compulsive disorder or CCD.
It may seem moderately amusing watching your pup hoarding toys or treats in their pet-bed, but your dog could be feeling anxious and acting out in a compulsive way. Even dogs with a pampered life can suddenly start barking like crazy if you’ve just moved homes or brought a new fur-baby into the family. Changes in their environment, or something in your woofer's past, could trigger a behavioral change. This topic is a real bone-shaker and one many dog owners have experienced.
Signs Your Dog Has Canine Compulsive Disorder
A dog's life can be gifted with a loving family or a series of homes, each less desirable than the last. These shelter dogs have seen the school of hard knocks and may have a few issues not apparent till you get them home.
What seemed like the cutest Maltipoo (Poodle/Maltese) is now a manic woofer, chasing shadows from room to room. The volunteers at the shelter had warned this little pup had an erratic past so there could be behavioral issues not present yet.
Turns out this adorable pup was locked in a bathroom for long periods of time and became fixated on shadows. Given the run of an entire home, her CCD erupted in a frenzied session of panting and pacing, all while trying to out chase silhouettes on the wall.
Dogs experiencing CCD have a manic stance, chasing that elusive tail, spinning around in circles, or maybe even staring blankly into space. Compulsive behaviors can also manifest in other ways as a dog overly-guards their toys and food or catches imaginary flies.
Watching a dog terrorize their paws as they lick until they're raw is a disturbing sight. They whimper and howl because it hurts, but continue their self-abuse, not knowing how to stop.
Dogs can also get an unhealthy attachment to their owners as they become hyper-attached, not allowing anyone near their guardian. This can result in aggressive behavior as an obsessed pup growls, snaps and bites anyone who gets too close. Their pupils will appear dilated with their hackles raised, while they hold their ground as custodian of their pet mom or dad. None of this is healthy, as the anxiety a dog feels could eventually make them ill.
History of Compulsive/Obsessive Behaviour in Dogs
Once upon a time, a grey wolf with a friendly nature formed a unique bond with early man, resulting in the dogs we know and love. Evolution was sped up as humans began a frantic breeding program, culminating in around 400 different styles of pooches.
With the "I can create dog," thinking came positive and negative attributes throughout the breeds. Some were ideal for herding while others sat perfectly in our lap. Along the way, we discovered our dancing with genetics had also caused physical and psychological issues.
It’s unclear whether wolves in the wild suffer from compulsive disorders, but their doggy kids are aligned with humans when it comes to obsessive tendencies. National Geographic, highlighted a study of dogs and humans at the Chicago University, where it was found both species have been evolving genetically alongside each other. That's down to living under the same roof.
A genetic researcher at the Chinese Academy of science, Beijing discovered people and dogs share genes that result in compulsive-obsessive behavior. Mother Nature is making genetic selections for two very different species in a similar way. This is referred to as convergent evolution and can be explained by the intense closeness we share with our beloved pooches
Its possible the origins of CCD relate to the union between wolves and man.
Science Investigates Dogs and Obsessive Disorders
In the latter part of the 20th century, a child psychologist blew her peer's minds with the introduction of compulsive behaviors as opposed to stereotypes. Before this groundbreaking news hit the headlines, most people thought that odd behavior associated with their pooch chasing their tail was an eccentricity or just part of their personality.
Stress promotes OCD in people and CCD (canine compulsive disorders) in dogs. Why the separate names you might ask? Scientists are not ready to assume dogs can feel obsession the way humans might portray it but agree they can have a compulsive disorder.
Living in a human world is hard for dogs with nervous dispositions and woofers that have been mistreated can be mentally impaired by continual abuse or neglect. Their obsessive tendencies could stop them being re-homed.
Dogs that are tied up outside for long periods of time and woofers that have had a frightening experience are both candidates for obsessive/compulsive behavior. Whole Dog Journal suggests certain breeds are more prone to CCD, with Cavalier King Charles chasing invisible flies - Dobermans sucking on their flanks and Labradors/ Golden Retrievers obsessively licking.
Other animals can show these kinds of compulsive tendencies, including zoo animals, cats, birds, horses and most animals contained in restrictive environments.
Training Dogs Who Feel Obsessive
When dogs can’t cope with a situation, they create obsessive ways to escape their painful reality. The canine mind is similar to a human's as it tries to detach. Humans may wash their hands repetitively or get totally fussed about the order of food cans in their kitchen cupboard. All these actions can get out of control with the tiniest trigger setting them off
Genetics play their part as do living spaces where stress is the norm. Dogs don’t have a voice, but soak up the pet-dad yelling at his wife, or the other dog in the house constantly stealing his toys. Some guardians may find a dog's obsessive behavior humorous but once it gets into full swing and their woofer is literally spinning out of control it, becomes clear there's a problem.
The vet is often the first person to call and medication can be helpful, with doggy Prozac being the answer to an owner's prayers. Victoria Stilwell, star of “It’s Me or the Dog,” television series suggests giving your dog sufficient exercise and if they are a light-chaser, replace reflective food/water bowls and toys with less shiny ones. The idea is to remove the object of their obsession, so as to diffuse the compulsion to chase lights.
Dogs that continually lick an area of their body should be first checked out by a vet. If no physical problem, like an allergy, is found, it’s likely to be compulsive. It may be that your pooch can’t stop licking you and this was flattering at the onset (Ahww, they love me!) but trying to watch the latest episode of “Game of Thrones,” with a Picasso pup licking your face is too much for any dog lover. In the past, you may have rewarded your woofer for showing affection, but now it's over the top and you have to stop the behavior by saying "no".
If your dog spins and chases their tail, once again, exercise is a deterrent. Puzzle games and responsive toys are a great aid or you could join an agility club where putting your pup through their paces, diving through tunnels, and teaching them jumping skills will take their mind off compulsive thoughts.
If your vet has advised medication for your dog’s compulsive disorder it might help to talk to a behavioral expert for further advice. Bear in mind that any kind of punishment will only make a dog with CCD more anxious.
Holistic therapy such as massage, acupressure, and herbal remedies are all possibilities if you prefer a natural style of treatment for your dog.
By a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole
Published: 03/21/2018, edited: 04/06/2020