Canine compulsive disorder in dogs or CCD is very similar to OCD in humans. But what causes them to get CCD? How do we know if a behaviour is obsessive and how do we help our canines out? We answer all these questions and a lot more in this article.
What is Canine Compulsive Disorder In Dogs?
Dogs do a lot of things in their daily lives like licking themselves and their paws, running behind their tail, chasing/lights and shadows, humping etc. These are normal canine behaviours.
Now suppose if your dog keeps doing this all the time. By all the time, we mean doing it for hours on end and forgetting to eat or sleep while they do it; that’s when this simple behaviour turns to CCD or Canine Compulsive Disorder in Dogs.
There are many debates that state that CCD is very similar to OCD. It’s hard to estimate the degree of similarities but studies have shown that similar OCD medications can keep CCD under control. Just like how OCD can be genetic or a reaction to stress or frustration, CCD can also be caused because of the same reasons.
Why Do Dogs Behave Compulsively?
The exact reasons for such behaviours are not known. However, doctors believe that they do activities that give them pleasure. When they do it too much it reduces the neurotransmitters that signal stress. Hence they get a pleasurable reaction from it.
They are so addicted to that pleasure that some dogs will wake up before sunrise and just sit by the window waiting for the shadows to cast so that they can chase them as soon as they are visible.
Other dogs have pica – this is more common to Labradors – they pick up inedible things and eat them. Sometimes they would keep a piece of rock in their mouth and keep chewing. This repetitive behaviour can put any pet parent under stress. It also very unhealthy for the body and may bring a host of worms in their stomach
How Do I Know If My Dog Is Behaving Compulsively?
As we said earlier, compulsive behaviour may stem out of normal behaviour like grooming themself. So how do we know when the behaviour has changed from normal to compulsive?
Allow us to illustrate this with the video below:
On one episode of the show ‘It’s Me Or The Dog’, Victoria Stillwell had to rectify why Max (or Mad Max) was so fixated with everything shiny. As she studies the dog she identifies that Max has CCD (she calls it OCD in the video).
Sometimes CCD can initiate from any new object or environment as well. In the article on CCD published by BBC, we see a discussion held by animal behaviourist Pamela Perry. She says that one of her client’s dog got fixated by the motions of their new washing machine. Every time she turned on the machine the dog kept flipping in circles. When she stopped the machine the dog also stopped.
Some breeds are predisposed to having CCD. For instance, Doberman Pinschers are predisposed to flank biting, Labs have a tendency for pica, Bull Terriers tend to spin in circles and so on.
How Do I Help A Dog With CCD?
Firstly, if you feel they are acting out obsessively, you must check with your vet. Have a word with them. Tell them when they do it, how long they do it and what makes them stop (or if they stop at all). Once you have confirmed their behaviour is a result of CCD you can start helping them get better.
Stop Encouraging Them
We know that as a pet parent you are not purposely trying to encourage the behaviour. But it does happen sometimes when we initially find it cute or amusing. We take pictures or laugh, or make sounds that encourage them. Even yelling ‘no’ may seem like encouragement because to them you are engaging in conversation with them.
2. Keep Them Physically And Mentally Stimulated
By giving them exercise both physically and mentally they are more tired and less inclined to do things obsessively. Add another few minutes in their walks or instead of taking them out twice a day, take them thrice a day. Play with them, make them run and teach them new tricks.
Just like humans dogs need to be busy. The busier they are, the less likely they will indulge in compulsive behaviour. In fact, if you make them very tired they may not get time to think about their obsession at all.
3. Remove Stress
CCD is usually caused by stress so try to identify things your dog is afraid of and scary things that happen to them every day. It can be a dominant dog not letting the submissive dog eat, or loud construction noises or they are left alone for too long. It can be anything. We suggest that you make a list and start eliminating these negative experiences one by one.
Sometimes they may feel stressed when we stop them from acting instinctively. For instance, dogs lick paws. A bit of paw licking is normal – healthy even. However, some pet parents don’t allow them to lick and bite their paws even a bit. This may make them restless and they will start to indulge in compulsive behaviour like chasing their tail or biting their flank so hard that it bleeds.
4. Create A Distraction
Whenever they indulge, make a loud noise and leave the room. They may get distracted and follow you to the other room. If they do, praise them, love them and give them a treat to show them that this is the behaviour you love about them.
If nothing works you can even go out the door and ring the doorbell. When they come to greet you, praise them to encourage them and give them a treat. Repeat this every time the start with their habit and you will notice their compulsive tendencies reduce gradually.
5. CCD Medication
If you have tried all the above and still see no change in your dog, it is best to use prescribed drugs. Please visit a reputed doctor for this so that they can best guide you with CCD.
With compulsive disorders, it is always ideal to treat the condition before it gets worse. So, keep an eye on your pet. Make note of any behaviour you find too abnormal. This way you can work on them before it gets serious.