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Healthy Dogs

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Compulsive Behavior in Dogs

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What NOT to Do

Do not punish or scold your dog for compulsive behavior. Compulsive behaviors are not the result of disobedience or spite. They are distress responses! Your dog is performing repetitive behaviors because he’s anxious and upset. If you punish him, he may become even more upset and the problem could get much worse.
Do not give your dog attention, like petting and praise, when he performs compulsive behaviors because doing so might cause an increase in those behaviors.

Medications May Help

Always consult with your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist before giving your dog any type of medication for a behavior problem.

In some cases, it can be helpful to use medication in addition to training and enrichment. If your dog is so anxious or stressed by whatever upsets him that his compulsive behavior cannot be stopped or redirected, or if he shows improvement for a time but then seems to stop improving, medication might be needed to make your treatment plan effective. Medications may also be necessary for dogs who have been engaging in compulsive behavior for a long time. If your veterinarian prescribes a medication for your dog’s compulsive behavior, be prepared to give it to your dog every day. Keep in mind that it may take a few weeks before you see changes in your dog’s behavior.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk. If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.
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