Dogs can exhibit obsessive compulsive behaviors much like humans can. Many pet owners witness strange, repetitive, destructive or even harmful behaviors in their dogs and may have questions about treatment. Unfortunately, many owners elect to get rid of their dogs because of the behavioral issues. But, with a little love, care and special training, you can try to treat your dog and remedy some of these behaviors instead of giving them away or putting them in a shelter.
Many dogs may have a genetic predisposition to exhibit certain behaviors. Many breeds may show insistent tail chasing. This is the most common compulsive behavior in dogs. Other dogs will obsessively lick a paw or other part of their body. This may seem harmless at first, but over time, they can lick off the fur and wear down the skin, producing open sores and exposing them to infection. Many obsessive behaviors are destructive in nature and can hurt or injure the dog over time. Another compulsive behavior is snapping. Some dogs will snap into the air continually and wear out their jaws. Some have been reported to attack at certain times. Many will attack their food bowl or violently protect it. Some will jump to attack doorknobs and break off their teeth. Compulsive behaviors will continue if untreated and can become life-threatening to the dog.
Compulsive behaviors in dogs almost always stem from a stressful situation. Compulsive behaviors are a response to anxiety, much like they are in humans. Sometimes the behaviors come on gradually and sometimes there is a marked event, such as being hit by a car or being abused that can trigger compulsive behaviors. The behaviors can continue for years after the event is forgotten as a way to cope with any anxiety.
For example, if a dog is blind or going blind, it may feel very anxious about other pets or humans at feeding time. They may be thinking that something or someone will take their food and they will not be able to see it coming. The anxiety can cause the dog to snarl, bark, bite or even attack to protect the food dish. Many owners are afraid, threatened and even in real danger when they witness this behavior. The high anxiety of the dog needs to be controlled to reverse this behavior.
Before resorting to prescription drugs, such as serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, which have been shown to be very effective in treating such behaviors and anxieties in humans and dogs, try to work with your dog on treating the underlying anxiety.
Dogs are very good at sensing human anxiety. You must remain very calm even when you know that the behavior is about to begin. If you notice the anxiety level arising, take charge and show the dog that you are the leader of the pack by laying the dog down, without hurting them of course, and use a firm voice. Get the dog very calm and praise them for being calm. Only attempt this behavior modification if it is safe to do so. Talk with a vet or trainer about specific behaviors that you are trying to correct. The general idea is to let the dog know that you are the boss, and it is not acceptable to let your anxiety level rise to the point of doing the behavior.
A lot of dogs are very responsive to behavior modification training. You may have to stay with your dog constantly at first, depending on how often the behaviors are exhibited, but it may not take long to break these bad habits. If you are looking for dogs for sale and are concerned about compulsive behaviors, do not go to puppy mills where the dogs may have already been traumatized. Make sure that you are getting your dog from someone who has been treating them right. Online adoption and sales can allow you to really shop around when searching for your new pet.