Illness, boredom, excitement and anxiety can all cause your dog to display atypical behaviors. Some of these behaviors are compulsive and some are just plain odd. The trick to fixing these behaviors is to monitor your dog’s environment to determine a cause. If there are no obvious stimuli causing the behavior, consult a vet.
Noted dog trainer Cesar Milan believes that tail chasing is most likely the result of boredom or excitement. It’s often amusing to witness Lucky haplessly chasing his tail, but for the dog, it’s a frustrating and self-defeating exercise. Context should give you some clews to the cause. If Lucky chases his tail when he’s about to go walkies, it’s most likely a response to excitement. If he only does it when left alone, he is most likely bored or anxious about being isolated. Observe his behavior over a period of weeks, keep a diary of when he chases his tail and you’ll be able to determine the cause.
Spinning is similar to tail chasing, with the crucial difference that Lucky isn’t focused on the ever elusive lure attached to his backside. A dog that compulsively spins is difficult to distract and will typically show signs of unease of physically prevented from engaging in the behavior. Some dogs may spin around as a means to distract themselves from conflict. If Lucky spins around when meeting new dogs at the park, he’s most likely doing so to focus away from the stress of social interaction. Use positive reinforcement during socialization to show him the rewards of interacting with other dogs.
Eating Strange Objects and Substances
A well-fed dog that chooses to eat non-food matter, such as poop, rocks, wood or paper is typically displaying signs of pica. This is a mental condition that causes dogs to obsessively eat unusual things. It can be caused by boredom, anxiety and malnutrition. It is also possible that the condition has been passed down to your dog from his mother. If she had pica, your dog may be mimicking a behavior he observed during puppyhood.
If your dog has an allergy, infection or irritating skin condition, he may chew at the fur to relieve the symptoms. Investigate this cause first. If he’s recently been treated for a skin problem, he may simply be struggling to break the habit of chewing his skin. This is especially likely if chewing got him attention in the past. If there is no current, or historical, skin problem, pica may the cause.
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