Dear Daisy Dog
I am an 18-year-old high school senior, and I have obsessive-compulsive disorder. Is this just a human condition, or do dogs develop it too? If so, what kinds of compulsive behaviors do dogs display?
Dogs and humans are alike in many ways, so it should come as no surprise that some dogs develop compulsive disorder.
It affects all domestic animal species and many wild species when kept in captivity.
The word “obsessive” isn’t used with animals, because the term refers to thoughts and ideas, which are difficult to evaluate in non-humans.
So in us animals, the condition is called compulsive disorder, or CD.
It’s a manifestation of anxiety, and susceptibility may be inherited.
Certain dog breeds are prone to specific compulsive disorders. For example, Doberman pinschers with CD often suck their flanks, sometimes to the point of injuring themselves.
German shepherds may chase their tails, while bull terriers with CD are more likely to spin.
Treatment includes medication and teaching the dog alternative behaviors.
For example, if a dog with CD begins to spin, the caregiver asks him to come and sit – and then rewards him.
Punishment of the compulsive behavior is never effective and can exacerbate the problem by increasing the dog’s anxiety.
Providing a low-stress environment that is neither over- nor under-stimulating helps minimize episodes.
Dogs with compulsive disorder usually do well with treatment. I wish the same for you.