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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a now 1 year old male GSD, he started chasing his tail around 7-8 months. Already went to the vet and he doesnt have any physical issues and was advised it is most likely OCD or triggered by anxiety. He went through obedience classes and he follows commands but when he already started chasing his tail again, there's no stopping him. Unless I get a hold of him and use a prong collar to make him stop and command him to stay and leave it.

Even after asking him to leave it, few moments later, he's at it again. I work Mon-Fri and according to my brother and baby sitter, he doesnt do the tail chasing as much when Im at work. But soon as I get home, he starts to do it. I dont know if it's because of excitement.

He gets plenty of exercise and I keep him mentally stimulated by training him indoors and outdoors. It's becoming destructive as he doesnt care if he hits things while spinning, his tail was already bleeding at one point from all the biting he does to it. He also hit the wall and the corner of his eye was also wounded :(

I try to remain calm everytime he does this - Ive read that I should ignore it, but it's a destructive behavior, so I pull him using the collar and make him stop and stay. I dont know if Im making it worse by doing that.

I tried to distract him with treats right before he starts doing it or when I see him already staring at his tail, it doesnt seem to work either.

Doctor advised to use the cone of shame, but I dont know how long I should use it. Did anything work with your shepherd? Does it every go away with age? Im desperate and would appreciate any input. Thanks alot.
 

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It's OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) -- it's has hard to fix in dogs as in humans.

I have a theory that in herding breeds OCD is "misfiring" of herding drive. If practiced long enough, it can get really bad.

My first thought is to get him doing a "job" -- very complex tasks. Herding would be great, but most of us can't do that -- so agility, barn hunting, flyball....some class or sporting group with lots of complicated steps that get strung together and require the dog to think to put them together....not just rote repetition like most obedience. Nosework might be a possibility too.

When you say he's getting enough exercise, what exactly do you do every day? I can go for a 4-to-5-mile hike in the mountains, and mine are happy but not really "tired". Even though mine are all seniors, they're pretty fit. "Tired" usually requires swimming for my pack. I had a very energetic adolescent foster dog who would bounce off the walls unless she got to RUN 3-4 miles every morning -- plus another long walk in the evening. The morning run was how she got out her ya-yas and found her center...and became much easier to live with. Walking the same distance didn't do as much good for her.

The other thing to know is that you probably need to find a vet that understands and has experience with canine OCD. The advice you got suggests that your vet may not be aware of it. There are only a few certified veterinary behaviorists in the U.S., but if you can find one -- or have your vet do a teleconsult with one -- it will likely be money well spent: https://www.dacvb.org/search/custom.asp?id=4709
OCD is a condition where I would really consider getting a vet behaviorist involved in the case to improve the odds of a successful treatment plan -- it's a stubborn, complex neuro-psych condition. The modern thinking is that these dogs need meds (often SSRI antidepressants, as the research is showing there's a seratonin and dopamine issue going on in these dogs, but the meds take 4-6 weeks to give any improvement). Most vet generalists aren't great at these kind of meds, or how to pair the meds with behavior modification -- that's the specialty of the vet behaviorists. Last I checked, a teleconsult with a vet behaviorist in another city cost around $250--with teleconsultation, they usually talk by phone to your vet, not to you, but they help the vet come up with a program appropriate for the dog. My state vet school also has one who visits for a few days every quarter doing in-person consultations....but it's much more expensive to see them in person (about $400).

Here's some reading about OCD -- you might share this with your vet:
Diagnosing and treating compulsive disorder (Proceedings)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi Magwart,

Thank you for the very informative advice. I'm located in the Philippines and unfortunately, I havent heard of a veterinary behaviorist around my area, I may have to ask around regarding that one.

Colt just turned 1 last month and I normally walk him twice a day. 4 miles in the morning and another 3 or 4 miles in the evening. I only started doing this a couple of weeks ago as I think he was too young to be running or walking that long. Im worried I might be pushing him too hard. Question though, when can you say your dog is already tired? Last night we walked 4 miles and when we got home, he started spinning again.

I plan to put a cone of shame on him in the mean time (as advised by the vet too) so that he wont be able to reach his tail or injure himself while spinning.
Thanks again for the info, appreciate it.


It's OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) -- it's has hard to fix in dogs as in humans.

I have a theory that in herding breeds OCD is "misfiring" of herding drive. If practiced long enough, it can get really bad.

My first thought is to get him doing a "job" -- very complex tasks. Herding would be great, but most of us can't do that -- so agility, barn hunting, flyball....some class or sporting group with lots of complicated steps that get strung together and require the dog to think to put them together....not just rote repetition like most obedience. Nosework might be a possibility too.

When you say he's getting enough exercise, what exactly do you do every day? I can go for a 4-to-5-mile hike in the mountains, and mine are happy but not really "tired". Even though mine are all seniors, they're pretty fit. "Tired" usually requires swimming for my pack. I had a very energetic adolescent foster dog who would bounce off the walls unless she got to RUN 3-4 miles every morning -- plus another long walk in the evening. The morning run was how she got out her ya-yas and found her center...and became much easier to live with. Walking the same distance didn't do as much good for her.

The other thing to know is that you probably need to find a vet that understands and has experience with canine OCD. The advice you got suggests that your vet may not be aware of it. There are only a few certified veterinary behaviorists in the U.S., but if you can find one -- or have your vet do a teleconsult with one -- it will likely be money well spent: https://www.dacvb.org/search/custom.asp?id=4709
OCD is a condition where I would really consider getting a vet behaviorist involved in the case to improve the odds of a successful treatment plan -- it's a stubborn, complex neuro-psych condition. The modern thinking is that these dogs need meds (often SSRI antidepressants, as the research is showing there's a seratonin and dopamine issue going on in these dogs, but the meds take 4-6 weeks to give any improvement). Most vet generalists aren't great at these kind of meds, or how to pair the meds with behavior modification -- that's the specialty of the vet behaviorists. Last I checked, a teleconsult with a vet behaviorist in another city cost around $250--with teleconsultation, they usually talk by phone to your vet, not to you, but they help the vet come up with a program appropriate for the dog. My state vet school also has one who visits for a few days every quarter doing in-person consultations....but it's much more expensive to see them in person (about $400).

Here's some reading about OCD -- you might share this with your vet:
Diagnosing and treating compulsive disorder (Proceedings)
 

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That is way not enough exercise for a dog at this age. You have been too cautious. I assume these are leash walks? If so, you can walk him all day and you still don't get a content dog.
He is wired as a working dog. This is not work but more of a distraction. The rest of his energy he will use up with other behavior, partly with tail chasing. This is just a guess on my part. This is OCD behavior and like others said, it is tough to conquer. I am just curious to see what would happen if you added something new. I wonder what his day wil be if you immerse him in a day-long activity routine; taking him off leash into a new (safe) area, throw toys, hide them, train him etc. Check out the flirt pole. Have you ever tried keeping him on leash inside wherever you go so he has to pay attention to you instead to his tail? The cone over his head will add to stress and mask the problem, I think.
Keep us posted.
 

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He's bored. That's why he chases his tail. :)
It can start that way and very well might have and turned into OCD later on. It is a very sad thing to see.
Also for everyone, if you see your pup do it for the first time, never laugh (=reward) but completely ignore him by leaving his presence. It never should be rewarded.
It has freaked me out and I did leave the room, only to return a few seconds AFTER he stopped and then go about my business, no further attention to being good even as they can even develop a chain of behavior; no attention? Chase my tail, being ignored but....rewarded when I stop.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I never laughed or found it cute the first time he showed signs of tail chasing. I read about it immediately and tried everything in my capacity to stop it. However, I am not in the house for about 9 hours a day during weekdays. I have time for him after work - this is when we go out for long walks and jog. I live in the city (I'm from the Philippines). There are very few places where I can take him offleash. We dont go to dog parks either as he's very excited with other dogs - sometimes, aggressive with cats and large dogs (mostly males). So I always try to find a place where there are no dogs or cats. He's trained and knows basic commands and is very a really good boy when we're walking/jogging (except when he sees/smells a cat or another dog). So we try to avoid those triggers.

He never chases his tail during walks, and is trained to walk beside me. He stops when I stop, he pays attention to me and follows my pace. We add some training during walks too. He stays in his crate when I'm not home and the people at home lets him out in the backyard to do his business. They play with him too when I'm not around so he doesnt get bored. When we go for very long walks, he would normally sleep all day long (which gives me the impression he's obviously tired). Long walks after work is now our routine. I'm patient and not expecting significant results from doing this structured exercise but I think it's worth a try.

I was just wondering if there's any success for your dogs, do they grow out of it eventually? My dog is 1 year old.

Appreciate everyone's input.



It can start that way and very well might have and turned into OCD later on. It is a very sad thing to see.
Also for everyone, if you see your pup do it for the first time, never laugh (=reward) but completely ignore him by leaving his presence. It never should be rewarded.
It has freaked me out and I did leave the room, only to return a few seconds AFTER he stopped and then go about my business, no further attention to being good even as they can even develop a chain of behavior; no attention? Chase my tail, being ignored but....rewarded when I stop.
 

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Can you tell when he's about to start? If you can, perhaps you could keep a drag line on him, and gently redirect him with some obedience commands right before he starts (doggie push-ups, sits and downs, for instance) then after he obeys, give him an appropriate toy to chew on? I'm not a trainer, and I've never dealt with this issue, just what I might try if it were my dog. Best of luck. Keep us updated. Are there trainers where you are that might be able to help?

https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/behavior/help-for-ocd-dogs/
https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/compulsive-behavior-dogs#1
https://www.vetwest.com.au/pet-library/tail-chasing-does-your-dog-chase-their-tail
 

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No, you can’t count on him outgrowing it. I know of geriatric GSDs that still chased their trails.

My quick impression of your pup’s day is that it’s really structured. Does he ever have time to just randomly play? A lot of structure can be stressful on young dogs and puppies. Humans often mistake dog’s intelligence for maturity. Puppies need play to relieve boredom and stress.

I recommend play that involves scentwork, like hide and seek (with favorite humans); hiding favorite toys or treats & let him find them (start easy, like right outside his crate and build up difficulty slowly. The point is to have fun, not to build up a skill). Or enroll in a beginning noseworks class; these are usually loose and fun.

Beginning agility is often loose with an emphasis on fun as well. Don’t get concerned about doing it right. The point is to have fun.

Keep your pup’s brain busy, but having fun.

Finally, I strongly recommend not correcting the behavior. Offer the opportunity for an alternate behavior. If your dog is ball motivated, get his attention with s squeaky ball (like Air Kong or King Squeezz balls) then toss them and play a bit of fetch, yes, even in the house.

If tug toy -motivated, offer a tug. (Latex chickens are awesome for this) If food motivated, check out my suggestions here for how to redirect an obsessed dog.

https://www.germanshepherds.com/#/topics/756615?page=3

Often, we escalate a dog’s inappropriate behavior by giving it more attentIon correcting it. If we redirect, we help the dog create behaviors that we can then reinforce (reward) with attention/toys/play and treats.

Rule #1 Attention reinforces behavior.

Rule #2 You can’t punish anxiety. Well, you can, but it doesn’t work. You’ll just make the anxiety worse.

So if your dog is tail chasing because of boredom, we need to fix that. If chasing because of anxiety or OCD, we need to address that without correction (a fancy word for punishment)

Once the dog has learned new behaviors like tugging/fetch etc to play with you, reinforce (reward) him when he initiates the game.

Be sure he’s crated when you really don’t want to play (ie dinnertime) but otherwise, help him learn new ways to deal with his energy you’re trying to teach him.
 
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