Obsession with Chashing Flies - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 10:53 AM Thread Starter
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Question Obsession with Chashing Flies

Hi Everyone,

My female 5 month GSD has started over the last month really aggressively tracking/chasing flies. I have looked it up online and it seems most of what is out there is about dogs who chase flies that aren't really there. These flies are most defiantly there and she absolutely loves to chase them all around the backyard. Almost like its her job to hunt them down and get them. She has even gotten our 6 month male to start to doing it. She has a path she walks in the backyard and its almost like she is on patrol to get the flies.

She will stop to play, stop to drink water, stop to eat and stop to rest... so its not like its controlling her life but I have noticed when she is doing it she is so focused on the task. I wasn't sure if this was something I should be concerned about in the long run or if I should just see it as a "job" she has created for herself to keep herself busy. Even though with the 2 puppies and our huge backyard/playground they are always busy.


Just wondering anyone else thoughts/advice on the subject - thanks!
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 11:49 AM
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My 18 month old male does basically the same thing.. He chases carpenter bees, flies, shadows, ashes from the fire, etc... I researched it a while back and people tried to say that is was OCD behavior and i needed to make him stop.. Well, i tried that... It didnt work.. So i learned to just live with it and let him continue doing his thing.. He even sits under the security light in my yard at night and chases bugs shadows.. Mine doesn't obsess over it to the point where he ignores me.. He will stop when i tell him too, and follow any command given.. But, I can leave him out at night for hours, and he will be under the light standing guard, waiting on something to chase.. Maybe not the best habit for a dog to learn, but mine taught it to himself.. It was not a bi-product of using a laser toy like some will say.. He is happy, and he can entertain himself, so i let him go with it..
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 01:21 PM
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We had a discussion about this stuff quite some time ago, and one of the things that really jumped out at me is that it appears to be herding drive that is creating the OCD behavior because it lacks its natural outlet as they don't have sheep to herd in modern life. They sometimes progress from bugs to shadows and any flashing light (headlights through a window, etc.)


I think @WIBackpacker mentioned some success fixing it by teaching one of these dogs to herd livestock. That makes a lot of sense to me, as it gives that herding drive an outlet.


You might see if you can find a herding class for the dog. Even something like barn hunting classes or competition might work as a productive outlet, as it would engage the nose too.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 01:45 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you - both of you.

Its nice to hear that this could be a normal herding behavior for her. She does stop when we tell her to or when she would rather take a dip in the pool. Its fun watching her, she is so focused on her task and since she is a lil chunkier then her mate, the extra walking around won't kill her ;P We thought maybe she was sniffing out the gophers in the backyard because she goes in a similar pattern to where there holes are but then she will jump up to catch a fly in the air, maybe a mixture of both.

It is currently not a destructive habit, she does listen and she doesn't overdue herself doing it so I am just going to let her have fun for now.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 02:19 PM
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I had a foster with this problem. She'd also fixate on lights, reflections, and floating dust specks in the sunlight.

Once she had difficult, engaging work on a regular basis, her compulsive behaviors decreased greatly. For her, that was sheep. For another dog, it might be scentwork or tracking or something else challenging.

When she was here, I interrupted her fixating behaviors by slamming doors, dropping a heavy book, that sort of thing. Redirecting is one approach, but if you're redirecting by giving the dog attention, it can become a reward, instead of simply an interruption in the pattern of bad habit.

There is a lot of research out there about how compulsive habits are formed, and much of it agrees that interrupting the cycle is key. Some describe it like the brain is stuck in a "loop of wrongness", and the longer it goes on the more difficult it is to change.

I would absolutely get her involved in training and difficult activities that really make her think, struggle, and learn. Basic pet obedience is a piece of cake for these guys, they're capable of learning much more complex things and using their brain every day.

It's one thing to snap at a fly here or there, but if this really is an obsessive behavior, it won't get better if it's allowed to keep going on. When it gets bad, it's difficult to live with.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 02:30 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WIBackpacker View Post
I had a foster with this problem. She'd also fixate on lights, reflections, and floating dust specks in the sunlight.

Once she had difficult, engaging work on a regular basis, her compulsive behaviors decreased greatly. For her, that was sheep. For another dog, it might be scentwork or tracking or something else challenging.

When she was here, I interrupted her fixating behaviors by slamming doors, dropping a heavy book, that sort of thing. Redirecting is one approach, but if you're redirecting by giving the dog attention, it can become a reward, instead of simply an interruption in the pattern of bad habit.

There is a lot of research out there about how compulsive habits are formed, and much of it agrees that interrupting the cycle is key. Some describe it like the brain is stuck in a "loop of wrongness", and the longer it goes on the more difficult it is to change.

I would absolutely get her involved in training and difficult activities that really make her think, struggle, and learn. Basic pet obedience is a piece of cake for these guys, they're capable of learning much more complex things and using their brain every day.

It's one thing to snap at a fly here or there, but if this really is an obsessive behavior, it won't get better if it's allowed to keep going on. When it gets bad, it's difficult to live with.
Thank you, she is also our vocal girl who will whine at us and our male to get attention. So we have already been working with her and not giving her any when she is like this. She defiantly needs more mental stimulation to be happy so we are looking into training and activities for her. Its funny because they say female GSD's are more family dogs, better tempered, quiet, chill... but our male is that and our female is hyper, vocal and constantly on the move. Our male is only vocal when alerting us of strangers or new things near the house. Otherwise he is a puddle of love who cuddles constantly. Its been amazing seeing them grow up side by side, I have ever just owned 1 dog at a time.
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