Obsessive Behavior in Dogs

compulsive dog behaviorWhat may start out as a cute mannerism in your dog can quickly and quite easily become an obsessive and dangerous behavior. You ask, “How can playing fetch become dangerous?” If the dog gets to a high enough level of obsession with their “toy” they will eventually cross the line and “protect” the toy from you, your child or even your guest. That can sometimes land them into the ER room with significant bite wounds.

I got to witness a great example of this “cute” behavior when I was on a trip and rented a room in a woman’s home.  She had a Boston Terrier named “Oreo” that was cute as a button. However, Oreo had a compulsive disorder that drove me crazy.  He was consumed with playing fetch. He was so bad that whenever I would reach out to touch him he would dash away looking for a anything to drop in my lap or at my feet.  Then he would back up and stare at me for what seemed like hours waiting for me to throw the object. The owner loved it when I humored Oreo by tossing the toy. I didn’t reciprocate and when she left me alone with him I just wanted to… well, sorry.  I understand it isn’t the dog’s fault, but I think you feel my pain.

So what do you do when your dog shows signs of compulsive behavior and how do you identify it? If you feel your dog may be compulsive, he probably is and the best person to see it is you. You will see his demeanor change, possibly eyes glaze over and such focus on an object or action that you cannot distract them. They are so consumed by the activity it is, well, neurotic.

The best thing is prevention. Making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise and quality time with you and the moment you see that compulsive attitude starting to rear it’s head you need to act. All games need a limit and when your dog starts showing those signs it is time for the game to end. Simply hold the toy until the dog leaves on their own then put it away. If you snatch it and yell at the dog you risk escalating the dogs emotions and you want the opposite to happen. You are setting boundaries and it may take time, but back to my story…

The owner really wanted to break Oreo of the habit.  I suggested she may fetch an outside only game. She decided to try it and though it took awhile, but he began to change. She took all the toys out of the house and he continued to hunt for one, but eventually gave up. I knew they were on the right track when he surprised me with a big wet kiss on the mouth one morning before I left. Nice!  But it was good to leave on that note.