How to Stop Obsessive Behavior in a Dog

There is a thin line between play and obsession.
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Every dog is different. Some are fun-loving troublemakers and some are laid-back snugglers. Others, however, are a little on the neurotic side. Every puppy personality has its place, but overly obsessive behaviors can be detrimental to both you and your canine companion.

Spotting Obsessive Behavior

Dogs with obsessions display different behavior than those without. Obsessive dogs will whine and stare at the object of their obsession, and sometimes will show guarding behaviors toward those who try to approach. Essentially, if you notice that your dog seems overly concerned with one particular element of his life, whether it be a toy or the mail carrier, the dog could be acting in an obsessive manner. Obsession can also manifest in the form of constant licking, nail-chewing or self-grooming.

Setting Limits

The first step in resolving obsession issues is setting limits to the intensity of your dog’s playtime. You should always start and end play sessions, and should immediately discontinue the play session if your dog begins to act obsessively. The idea here is creating an environment in which the dog understands that play has rules, and obsessive behaviors will result in the end of playtime. If your dog’s obsessions stem from something he cannot access, like squirrels or dogs passing in the street, you will need to positively distract his attention from these obsessions with training sessions or guided play. Interrupting obsessive behavior is the only way to cure it.

Releasing the Energy

In many cases, dogs develop obsessive behaviors because they have no other outlet for their energy. A dog who barks obsessively at birds through the window may simply be so bored and hyperactive he has nothing better to do. One of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of intense, obsessive behavior in your dog is providing him with at least 45 minutes of exercise every day of the week. If you keep your pup stimulated and exercised, he will have less need for obsession.

Consequences of Obsession

If you leave obsession to fester in your dog, you may end up with big problems down the line. Obsession can quickly escalate into aggression -- today your dog may be obsessed with his favorite rope toy, but tomorrow he may guard it with his life. It is critical that you identify obsessive behavior early and work to prevent and correct it through exercise and behavioral modification. If you have any trouble or are unsure how to proceed, it is best to speak with a professional dog trainer for a custom treatment plan.

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