Obsessive-compulsive behaviour

Jamie Penrith posted a video showing a dog with severe problems – pacing and compulsively licking the walls,  amongst other things. I made a few comments.

I have dealt with quite a few dogs in this general category, with stereotyped, repetitive behaviours. It can take many forms, but I suspect they are related. It definite has a genetic component, because these behaviours are seen in some breeds more than others. However, in some dogs the behaviour is triggered by stress, but in more serious cases the triggers seem to be minimal, and the behaviour would probably have developed anyway.

Behaviours I have seen include obsessive chasing of light and shadows or patterns, obsessive spinning, pacing, tail-chasing, self-mutilation, pica (ingesting non-food items) and idiopathic aggression.   Breeds I have worked with include English Bulldog, Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Border Collie, Golden Retriever, and Jack Russell. It has also been reported in German Shepherds. Flank licking in Dobermans seems to be a related but very specific condition. I saw a miniature bull terrier that had chased and bitten his tail so badly that the bone was broken and distinctly kinked at rightangles. Another Bull Terrier went into an extreme spin that was impossible to interrupt. The owners sometimes stayed up all night trying to interrupt her. When they had to eventually sleep they put her in the laundry, a small room. She continued to spin all night, bouncing off the walls, and getting covered in her own excrement, because she couldn’t stop to defecate. She was euthanised.

A Bulldog I saw had extreme pica, eating a lot of stones and concrete, largely because everything else had been removed from the garden. He had numerous operations for obstructions. Another Bulldog showed various behaviours – pacing, chasing reflections and shadows and biting the owner’s husband in the crotch. Not sure whether this last one was an obsessive behaviour, or ideopathic aggression, but it probably sealed the dog’s fate.

I have heard of various theories about the cause. Maybe there is more than one. Temporal lobe epilepsy is one. Other brain or neurotransmitter malfunctions have been proposed. Prozac has been used because it has an anti-obsessive effect. Have to stop now, but will post later about a really interesting Border Collie.

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About transformational1

I have many interests and I have had a varied career. I am a semi-retired professional dog trainer, specialising in the use of positive reinforcement. I do some consultations, I run instructor workshops and I am setting up a Dogs and Psychotherapy Research Project. I have a law degree from Melbourne University (but have never practiced) and I am passionate about Human Rights. My first degree was in Sociology. I worked as a social researcher on issues such as low income housing, women's refuges and women in the workforce. I live in an inner suburb of Melbourne, Australia, and I have a German Shepherd called Chance.
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