Ozzie the Dachshund showed repetitive behaviours including spinning, tail chasing, tail pulling and tail biting – he had consequently caused considerable damage to the end of his tail. These bouts had become increasingly more frequent, intense and harder to interrupt over time.
The triggers identified were any events that induced frustration and high-arousal. Repeating a ritualized behaviour produces a reduction in arousal and frustration, which is a powerfully motivating reward. Unfortunately, the threshold to trigger the behaviour then becomes progressively lower so that the dog appears to lose the choice over whether to perform it or not. Ozzie also exhibited signs of anxiety associated with the owner’s reaction to his worrying behaviour. Treatment involved reducing anxiety by stopping all punishment methods and attempts to stop the behaviour, reducing Ozzie’s expectations and increasing his ability to cope with frustration, providing a consistent & stress-free routine, providing alternative behaviours including scentwork and other mentally stimulating activities, and increasing his ability to tolerate arousal. Due to the severity of Ozzie’s compulsive behaviour, Ozzie’s vet also prescribed psychoactive medication to facilitate treatment. Once Ozzie’s repetitive behaviours had reduced to him barely exhibiting the behaviour or on the rare occasion he did, it was in an extremely mild form and was easy for the owners to redirect him into an appropriate behaviour, the medication was gradually weaned off. With hard work and dedication from the owners, making alterations to their routines and schedules and interactions with Ozzie, he was able to be fully weaned off the medication and no longer resorts to compulsive behaviour.