OCD dog.. behaviourists please HELP!!

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by Cara, Jan 29, 2008.

  1. Cara

    Cara Songster

    Aug 30, 2007
    My retriever mix has the most frustrating neurotic habit that we haven't found a way to stop yet. She's in SAR training and loves her job, but this is the one thing stopping her from getting her certification. She is fixated with shadows, reflections and flashlights. She would chase them all day and all night if left to her own devices, and tries to dig them up, barks at them and runs up walls after them. She has to pass a night search test, but she goes insane if she sees a flashlight. She's very hyperactive and smart, which I think has a lot to do with it. Usually she listens very well and is easy to train, but when she sees a reflection she changes completely. Her tail goes straight up in the air and wags like crazy, and even if I put my hands over her eyes she is still intent on where the reflection is, and she goes completely deaf on me. It's hard to stop because I can't watch her 24/7, and often I can't control the shadows/reflections. Does anyone have any ideas? It makes me sad seeing her act like this, but I don't know how to help her without playing with her all day.
  2. snugglepup

    snugglepup Songster

    Apr 15, 2007
    Creedmoor, NC
    Oof, that's a tough one. Not uncommon in drivey dogs Shadow chasing can be very frustrating to treat. If it's a true OCD, you will need to talk to a vet behaviorist or at least a vet with behavior experience (these are few and far between). I believe Tufts has a phone consult line, if you can't find anything else. True OCD will need meds to support behavior mod.

    I would start with Dr Karen Overall's relaxation protocol. If you aren't familiar with it, I think you can find a version of it on the web. I would start this separately from the flashlight context. Is there a situation where she tends to be more reactive than other times? Many times OCD episodes are set off by stress. For example, a dog with OCD tail chasing that is sound sensitive may begin tail chasing right after a car backfires nearby. In which case, the best result is usually from treating the underlying stress first.

    I would also work to desensitize/countercondition the flashlight. At what point does she trigger? Its important to always work below the dog's threshold. Does the sight of the flashlight itself cause a reaction? Sometimes we can start by just showing the dog the flashlight then feeding a treat. Working on basic Pavlovian conditioning. The goal is to start with the lowest possible level of stimulation, and gradually build up to the full level. So perhaps in her case, the sight of a flashlight at home, flashlight turned on in day time, flashlight turned on in dim light, turned on at night. Then generalize to other locations. That is one possible progression... it depends on the dog.

    If she will take treats in the presence of the triggers, you can play the look at that game. When she sees a reflection, click and treat before she falls apart. There is a great new book out by Leslie McDevitt (a fellow CPDT) called Control Unleashed that is about training dogs that are reactive and unable to control their impulses when excited. Its written mostly for agility folks, but I think you would find a lot of the exercises applicable to your situation, too.
  3. Cara

    Cara Songster

    Aug 30, 2007
    Thanks for your reply. I think her behaviour is caused by excess energy/boredom more than anything, as she is very bold and not scared of much (other than heights).

    She doesn't have something specific that seems to set her off, she has it down to a routine now. I let them all out when I get up in the morning for 30 mins or so, then bring them in for breakfast. As soon as she is done eating she stands by the door with her head down, waiting for me to open it so she can bolt outside and chase the reflections from the screen door. At night she does the same wanting to chase shadows. She's always the first out and the last in, and the first up and the last to go to sleep. She has got better about coming inside, I used to have to go and get her but she comes in as soon as I call her now.

    The flashlight problem is much more extreme. My old roommate thought it was funny when she was a puppy (she's 2 now) and would let her play chasing it all the time. I have to put her outside if we need to use a flashlight indoors to look under a piece of furniture or something. If I don't she is all over the place after it. It's hard to tell whether she gets excited by the sight of the flashlight, or my body language as I expect her to go loopy now. I will try just setting it down in the front room, then carrying it, etc. Should I do anything if she does chase it, or just ignore it?

    I'm wondering if I try taking her on longer searches at night whether she might realise that it's more rewarding to do her job than play with the flashlight, ie if I just ignore the behaviour and maybe lead her pretty close to the 'victim'.

    My biggest worry is her getting loose in an urban area and chasing headlights.
  4. Dodgegal79

    Dodgegal79 Songster

    Dec 1, 2007
    Princeton BC Canada
    I was going to ask you how old she is, you say 2, I don't klnow if this is something that may dissmiss with age. I wish you luck with her, you have your hands full.
  5. ChicknThief

    ChicknThief Songster

    Jan 12, 2008
    Nor Cal
    Our sheltie is like this. He is 3 1/2, so it doesn't get better with age... But heck, hes good for hours and hours of good clean entertainment!!! And all you need is one little laser pointer.....
  6. suenrob

    suenrob Songster

    Jan 22, 2008
    Ft. Myers, FL
    My min-pin goes nuts when you get out the aluminum foil!!! The minute she hears it she comes running in the kitchen to bark at the reflections it's making. Nothing I do makes her stop.

    I know this dosen't help you, just sharing my story so you don't think your dog is the only one with this problem. Sorry I couldn't be more help, good luck:)
  7. texasgirl

    texasgirl Songster

    May 27, 2007
    South Texas
    Can you use a leash/halti to control her? While she is on the leash discourage the behavior ("leave it!") and give a lay command, when she lays then reward.
  8. Cara

    Cara Songster

    Aug 30, 2007
    Well the problem is she mostly does it when i'm not around, with the shadows and reflections outside, and I can't control those either. She finds the behaviour rewarding in itself.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2008
  9. s6bee

    s6bee Songster

    Jul 1, 2007
    Western, NY
    The only thing I will say is NO LASER POINTER......it makes them worse

    You do have your hands full, Tufts is a great source. I did Springer rescue and we had a few with this behavior in our organization, we took dogs there all the time. It will mean a commitment on your part, and this goes for any behavior changes being made.

    Sorry I can't be of more help though and good luck,
  10. FlightsofFancy

    FlightsofFancy Songster

    Jan 22, 2008
    Canton, GA
    I can feel your pain! OCD dogs are great when working, but whoow...they are a handful when thay are not. Cearsar Milan, "The Dog Wisperer" did a few shows on this. You can go to his website @ Discovery Channel or pick up past episodes. He particularly focused on dogs that have issues with shadows. To the best of my memory it was last season and the season before last. Sorry I can't be more help. Good Luck!!

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