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Canine Compulsive disorder otherwise known as Obsessive Canine Disorder (OCD) is characterized by a repetitious, relatively unchanging sequence of activities or movements that has no obvious purpose or function

In dogs, compulsive behaviors include acral lick dermatitis, flank sucking, pacing, circling, incessant or rhythmic barking, fly snapping or chasing unseen objects, freezing and staring, polydipsia (excessive drinking), sucking, licking, or chewing on objects (or owners), tonguing or licking the air and other forms of self mutilation.

Any breed may develop a compulsive disorder; however, one study reported a strong correlation between articular breeds and types of compulsive disorders. This suggests there are genetic influences underlying compulsive disorder manifestations.

German Shepherd Dogs and Bull Terriers are known to spin or tail chase, while a genetic locus for flank sucking has been identified in Doberman Pinschers. Symptoms often start in young dogs.

Differentiating Repetitive Behaviors From OCD’s

Lots of herding dogs and other types of “high drive” dogs have repetitive traits or tendencies. This is doing behaviors over and over again. But this isn’t necessarily canine compulsive disorder.

Some repetitive, apparently non-functional behaviors can be perfectly benign. Many dogs spin in circles when they’re excited or will happily retrieve a ball as long as you continue to throw it. Lots of dogs will fixate on squirrels or birds in what many consider to be an obsessive manner.

In contrast, a behavior like this crosses the line and becomes a problem when it begins to interfere with other normal activities like eating and drinking, resting, playing, and being social with family members. In many cases, it may also be difficult to distract the dog or get him to stop once he’s started to engage in the behavior.

Symptoms Of Canine Compulsive Disorders

The most common behaviors that indicate canine CCD in dogs include:

  • Acral lick dermatitis: Obsessive licking of a body part, sometimes to the point of injury
  • Flank sucking: Obsessive nibbling, sometimes leading to self-mutilation
  • Tail chasing/tail spinning
  • Pacing or circling
  • Incessant or rhythmic barking
  • Obsessive chasing of unseen objects (such as chasing a shadow or snapping at flies
  • Polydipsia (excessive drinking)
  • Obsessive chewing on objects
  • Pica: Obsessive eating of inappropriate objects like rocks

These symptoms of canine OCD are often accompanied by changes to the dog’s energy level and significant weight loss.

Causes of Canine Compulsive Disorders

Canine compulsive disorder is often genetic at its core, although anxiety and stress can increase the likelihood of it developing.

Situations that can encourage Canine Compulsive Disorder behaviors to form include:

  • Abuse
  • Frequent aggression from other dogs
  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Isolation
  • Lack of socialization
  • Loss of or separation from a companion
  • Unpredictable punishment

Extreme examples of these situations may cause compulsive self-soothing behaviors in otherwise normal dogs as well.

Treatment of Canine Compulsive Disorders

The first step is the medical investigation to make sure there’s no physical reason for the behavior or why they’re focusing on a certain part of their bodies.

The next step is to see if we can identify if there is a way to avoid the animal’s triggers, reduce them or minimize the animal’s exposure to those triggers.

We try to provide other more productive coping mechanisms. So, if it’s an oral displacement behavior, we give them all their food through puzzle toys so they have to work with their mouths in other ways.

If it’s one of those breeds that’s really driven to work, we give them a job. We get them working their brains and exhaust them mentally and physically.

In cases in which it’s severe or we’re not able to avoid the triggers or are unable to identify the triggers, we’ll use medication, typically anti-anxiety medications.


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