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Treating Compulsive Spinning or Tail Chasing Behavior in Dogs

The combined skills of a behavioral specialist, veterinarian and dog trainer used in a multidisciplinary approach may be needed for this canine disorder.

In the second part of this exclusive Suite101 interview, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Dr. Alice Moon–Fanelli, discusses the diagnosis and treatment of canine compulsive spinning or tail chasing behavior. Recognizing the problem before it becomes deeply imbedded in the dog’s routine behavior will increase the likelihood of successful treatment. For more background on the problem see Understanding

Compulsive Spinning or Tail Chasing Behavior in Dogs.

Identifying true compulsive tail chasing or spinning behavior in dogs requires specialized knowledge of canine behavior. After a thorough examination by a veterinarian to rule out any health problems which may be an influence, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) or board certified Veterinary Behaviorist (DACVB) should be consulted. Once the disorder is diagnosed, a combined regimen of medication and behavioral therapy may be needed initially. While some dogs may be weaned off of medication after the initial treatment, some may require life–long medication.

Early Intervention Makes Treating Canine Compulsive Spinning More Effective

Dr Moon–Fanelli emphasized the importance of early intervention in treating spinning and tail chasing dogs. Catching the problem before it reaches the state where the dog is unable to control the initiation or termination of the behavior increases the chances of successful treatment. A multidisciplinary approach is often most effective in treating this canine compulsive disorder.

Using the combined expertise of a veterinarian to manage medical intervention as needed, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, or Veterinary Behaviorist to determine why the problem is occurring and how to manage the behavior modification necessary, and a dog trainer to work directly with the owner throughout the behavior modification process is likely to produce the best results.

Three Key Features Aid in Successful Treatment of Compulsive Spinning Behavior

Once it has been determined that a dog is exhibiting compulsive spinning or tail chasing behavior, there are three actions needed to control the compulsive behavior if there is an environmental trigger:

  • The environmental behavioral trigger must be identified
  • Exposure to the environmental behavioral trigger must be minimized
  • The dog must be desensitized to the environmental behavioral trigger

Appropriate Mental and Physical Stimulation Helps Control Compulsive Behavior in Dogs

Some owners will be able to manage their dogs’ behavior through training and desensitization, using medication in the short term to help the dog focus. In other cases, particularly in long standing compulsive tail chasing or spinning behavior situations or where there is a history of the behavior in the dog’s bloodlines, lifetime medication may be necessary.

Dr Moon-Fanelli also stressed the need to provide the dog with appropriate physical and mental stimulation to reduce its focus on the compulsive behavior. A CAAB, DACVB or good dog trainer may be of help in designing a canine training and exercise program which ensures adequate levels of activity and challenges the dog mentally. As an added benefit such programs are likely to result in a closer bond between dog and owner as they work together in these activities.

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