Think your dog may have a compulsive disorder? Here’s a guide to clues that separate normal play activities from a canine compulsive disorder.
Respond to each question and keep track of the points each answer is worth. Then, use your score to determine whether your dog’s quirk could be a sign of something more serious.
1. Does your dog regularly engage in behaviors such as chronic licking, tail-chasing, or light-chasing?
a. No. (0 points)
b. Yes, but no more than once or twice a day, and only when he’s excited about being fed or the mailman is coming down the street.
c. Yes, many times, every day. (4 points)
2. When your dog engages in a possible compulsive activity, what happens when you leave the room?
a. Dog quits. (0 points)
b. Dog stays engaged. (4 points)
3. When your dog engages in the activity in question, can he be easily distracted by something else (i.e. meals, another dog, invitation to walk or play)?
a. Yes, always. (0 points)
b. Yes, but with difficulty. (2 points)
c. Not usually. (4 points)
4. Are there mixed signals governing what your dog can and cannot do?
a. No, all family members enforce the same rules for the dog.
b. Sometimes – the kids let the dog do things that the parents do not permit. (2 points)
c. Yes, sometimes it’s easier to let the dog do what he wants, although when we have the time, we give our dog the discipline he needs by scolding him. (4 points)
5. Does your dog seem upset when the family is absent?
a. No, he doesn’t appear to be upset when we leave or cause any damage when we’re gone. (0 points)
b. Possibly. Our neighbors report he barks a lot when we’re gone.
c. Probably. He whines and cries when we put him in the crate before we leave. (2 points)
6. Is there a new source of stress in the household?
a. No, there have been no changes. (0 points)
b. Possibly, there have been big changes, like a new activity or a new baby who takes up a lot of our time. (2 points)
c. Yes, he doesn’t like the new dog that we have now. (3 points)
0 points: It doesn’t sound like anything abnormal is going on.
2 to 5 points: Evaluate your situation a little more closely and see if stress-reducing changes make a difference.
6 or more points: Discuss the situation with your veterinarian. Your dog could have a problem.
Remember, a short quiz is not a substitute for seeking veterinary advice. Always discuss any concerns about changes in your dog’s behavior with your veterinarian.
Thanks to Katherine Albro Houpt, VMD, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVB, and Director of the Animal Behavior at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and Andrew Luescher, DVM, Ph.D., and Diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Behavior and the European College of Veterinary Behavioral Medicine, for their input.