HELP: My dog chases lights & shadows

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VacationRenters.com:
We have a 1 yr old Golden Retriever. He has been well trained to do the usual, sit, place, come and all that good stuff. One day my daughter was playing with a laser pointer and the dog took a keen interest. Well ever since then he has become pretty much an idiot about lights and shadows .. he chases them around the house, jumps on things in chase of the illusive light, he even chewed a knot out of the deck where a beam of light was shining. Please any suggestions .. anyone with a similar problem? Thanks - the message below is for SPAMMERS only, nice people can ignore!

Tim
http://www.vacationrenters.com
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Tricia9999:
[nq:1]We have a 1 yr old Golden Retriever. He has been well trained to do the usual, sit, place, come ... of the illusive light, he even chewed a knot out of the deck where a beam of light was shining.[/nq]
I have seen more neuroses created because of these laser lights. Keep it away from him obviously. When he goes into his behavior, try to distract him, redirect him to another behavior. I don't really have much else to offer - it can be a problem with many dogs. I hope others can offer more insight. I recently saw a BC who was constantly snapping at things in the air that weren't there - the kids had been playing with this laser light with him. He was obsessed.
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Melissa S. Frye:
[nq:1]I have seen more neuroses created because of these laser lights.[/nq]
The light is only a trigger. Light chasing is a classic examle of OCD in dogs - and will manifest with or without having seen a laser light.

Fly snapping, as you mentioned in your other example is another example. (Also licking, Spinning etc).
These condidtions are something that I really recommend a visit to a behaviorist and medication to treat - with medication the outcomes tend to be quite good, and they are resistant to behaviorsal modification alone, as they are to some extent a self-reinforcing behvior.

Unfortunatly correcting the dog often leads to them simply engagaing in the bahavior is a way less likely to attract attention, Not in eliminating it.

IF you aren't visiting a behaviorist, thedistraction and rewarding of alternate behaviors is a good course. Also up your dog's exercise.

Great article last year in JAMVA on OCD - I highly recommend it to trainers. **
J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2002 Nov 15;221(10):1445-52. Related Articles, Links
Comment in:
J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2003 Jan 15;222(2):151; author reply 151-2.

Clinical features and outcome in dogs and cats with obsessive-compulsive disorder: 126 cases (1989-2000).
Overall KL, Dunham AE.
Center for Neurobiology and Genetics-Psychiatry Department, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.

OBJECTIVE: To determine clinical features and outcome in dogs and cats with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). DESIGN: Retrospective study. ANIMALS:103 dogs and 23 cats. PROCEDURES: Records of patients with OCD were analyzedfor clinical features, medication used, extent of behavior modification, and outcome. RESULTS: Most dogs affected with OCD had been obtained from breeders. Male dogs significantly outnumbered females (2:1). Female cats outnumbered male cats by 2:1 in a small sample. Most affected dogs lived in households with 2 or more humans and other dogs or cats, and had some formal training.

Client compliance with behavior modification was high. A combination of behavior modification and medication resulted in a large decrease in intensity and frequency of OCD in most animals. Clomipramine was significantly more efficacious for treatment in dogs than was amitriptyline. Only 1 dog and 1 cat were euthanatized because of OCD during the study. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: OCD in dogs does not appear to be associated with lack of training, lack of household stimulation, or social confinement.

In cats, OCD may be associated with environmental and social stress. Obsessive-compulsive disorder appears at the time of social maturity and may have sporadic and heritable forms. With appropriate treatment (consistent behavior modification and treatment with clomipramine), frequency and intensity of clinical signs in most dogs and cats may decrease by > 50%. Success appears to depend on client understanding and compliance and the reasonable expectation that OCD cannot be cured, but can be well controlled.
PMID: 12458615 (PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE)
**
Melissa
Keep it away
[nq:1]from him obviously. When he goes into his behavior, try to distract him, redirect him to another behavior. I don't ... in the air thatweren't there - the kids had been playing with this laser light with him. He was obsessed.[/nq]
Melissa S. Frye
Skyrocket cockers www.mfrye.com/skyrocket/
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Rocky:
[nq:1]Please any suggestions .. anyone with a similar problem?[/nq]
A friend has a Rottweiler nicknamed "Shadowchaser" who first became obsessed with light and shadows on an agility course. This was a sunny day when small clouds kept passing overhead.

The obsession has continued for years, but has decreased significantly with continued distraction on the owners part. When the Rottie starts playing with shadows on a walk, for example, the leash goes on if verbal distraction or treats don't work. In agility, the run ends.

Matt. Rocky's a Dog.
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Tracy Doyle:
[nq:1]We have a 1 yr old Golden Retriever. He has been well trained to do the usual, sit, place, come ... out of the deck where a beam of light was shining. Please any suggestions .. anyone with a similar problem?[/nq]
Hi, Tim...
I have two deaf dogs. And yes, I have a similar problem. It seems that deaf dogs have an unusually high incidence of this type of compulsive behavior, and if it shows up, it seems to happen between the dog's first and second birthday, from the reports of other deaf dog owners. But it happens occasionally in hearing dogs, too. Usually in drivey, high energy dogs, and also in certain breeds. There seems to be a hereditary element to it, as well.
I'm going to tell you our story and what I did and didn't do, since I've dealt with it twice in different ways and with different results. You have to make up your own mind on how to handle it with your own dog.

My first experience with it was with my Australian Cattle Dog, Sugar Baby. About 2 weeks after her first birthday, she fixated on her own shadow on the stairs for some reason. She spent about an hour running up and down the stairs before I really figured out what she was up to. I didn't know what to do, so I got on the internet and googled "shadow chasing dogs." All the conventional wisdom said not to correct the behavior because that makes it worse. I called my private trainer/behaviorist, but she wouldn't help until we had been to a vet to rule out such things as epilepsy, etc.She kept right on chasing shadows and lights REALLY badly. I made an appointment with a veterinary behaviorist - couldn't get in for three weeks, so the behavior continued. In the meantime, I went to our regular vet and got her on a Clomicalm equivalent. All that did was zonk her out and completely ruined her performance in obedience classes. She was a zombie - but it didn't affect the shadow chasing at all. I did try distraction, to no avail. When I finally did go to the behaviorist, he gave me a full program to follow - two half-hour walks per day, lots of play, but - to keep her in a gentle leader head collar with a drag line all the time.

I never did like those things and I liked them even less after I put it on my dog. She was so disconcerted by the thing - she just laid there and didn't want to move at all. The behaviorist said it had a "calming" effect. I didn't see any "calm" at all - she was petrified! When she did get up and walk, she dragged her nose on the ground and would go a few feet and lay down to paw at her face. She started licking her paws with avengence and snapping at the other dogs when they came close, and chasing her tail.

By the next day, she had sores on her paws from licking and on her nose from dragging it. No, she didn't chase shadows while she had it on, but she developed two other compulsive behaviors (licking and tail chasing) and became aggressive. So, off came the GL ... IMHO, some dogs do just fine with it and some can't deal with it. Mine couldn't.
A few months later, I accidentally took one of her pills. That was an eye-opener. I was giving her two, twice a day. She weighs about 36 pounds. I took one, and I weigh one heck of a lot more than she does. It hit me like a ton of bricks - I was totally buzzed. I almost had my S.O. take me to the emergency room! That's mighty powerful stuff and I was both nervous and drowsy at the same time. After that, I decided to get that little dog off those meds, and we weaned her off it over a period of several weeks. NEVER AGAIN will I give my dog a drug like that.

At my wits end, I tried something that is controversial and I KNOW I'm going to get flamed for this, but I really don't care. I had used a prong collar on her occasionally in obedience training, so I put it back on her, with a drag line. When she went after shadows, I grabbed the leash and corrected her, signed "NO SHADOWS," then had her do some obedience work and treated her when she did well. I was consistent with this and it HAS reduced her shadow chasing, but it hasn't stopped it. I'm convinced that I waited too long - it had been several months since she started the behavior and it was quite ingrained.
Now, 2 years later, she still chases shadows, but mostly it's only when my S.O. and I move around the house. She has good days and bad days. On her bad days, I put the collar and leash on and it DOES calm her down. Usually, I don't even have to give her any corrections. What's really odd is that she doesn't do this anywhere else. Out of the house, she's a perfectly calm little lady. I've taken her on trips with us, she goes everywhere with me when I can take her and she's rock solid and reliable.

She's even a certified therapy dog! When people come over and see the behavior, they can hardly believe it's the same dog. I tell them that she's convinced there are ghosts in the walls, and she thinks it's her job to keep them there. I kind of believe that, to a certain degree.

She's also fixated on a ball - a Jolly ball teaser (hard plastic with holes and a smaller soft ball inside). She carries it around with her all the time, and when she gets cranked up on shadows she does her best to "kill" it. Her compulsive behavior doesn't bug me anymore like it used to, but I wish I had corrected the behavior earlier on. She'll probably do this for the rest of her life.
Right after she started this behavior, I wound up with a deaf pit bull puppy as a foster dog. Long story, but I wound up keeping her. She grew up watching Sugar getting whacked out on shadows, but didn't seem to pay any attention. Then one day, shortly after her first birthday (again!), I saw her charging after shadows on the wall. THIS time, I put the pinch collar on her and corrected her STRONGLY, then did some obedience moves with her, heavy praise and treats. When I let her go, she went after the shadows once more and I did the same thing. I was determined NOT to have two whacko dogs in the house.
Well, it worked. I had to remind her ONCE a couple of weeks later. Oh, once in a while she'll see a light on the wall and start to go toward it, but she looks at me, first. I sign to her NO SHADOWS, LEAVE IT! and she does. Then I call her over to me, do some sits and downs and a few tricks - lots of praise and treats. NO drugs, NO behaviorists, NO not-so-gentle leaders - just good old-fashioned correction, distraction and redirection. I didn't give her a chance to get into a habit - I marked it as incorrect behavior as soon as I saw it, then gave her something better to do with her time.
Tim, if you have questions, I will answer them. I will not respond to flames, though. I'm just telling what worked and what didn't work for ME and MY DOGS. All dogs are individuals and I'm not recommending anything in particular. You have to find what works for you and your dog.

I wish you luck ... I know how heartbreaking it is to see your dog get addicted to a behavior like this. Oh, and NO LASER POINTERS! No flashlights - nothing like that. Let your dog chase a ball for exercise.

Kind Regards,
Tracy
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Tricia9999:
[nq:1]So, off came the GL ... IMHO, some dogs do just fine with it and some can't deal with it. Mine couldn't.[/nq]
Many don't adjust to the GL
.>A few months later, I accidentally took one of her pills. That was an
[nq:1]eye-opener. I was giving her two, twice a day. She weighs about 36 pounds. I took one, and I weigh ... me to the emergency room! That's mighty powerful stuff and I was both nervous and drowsy at the same time[/nq]
Fascinating. We are drugging our kids and dogs and maybe we should all see how it feels first.
[nq:1]At my wits end, I tried something that is controversial and I KNOW I'm going to get flamed for this, ... she did well. I was consistent with this and it HAS reduced her shadow chasing, but it hasn't stopped it.[/nq]
No flames here. You did the best for your dog and helped fix some problems. That's what it's all about.
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Rocky:
[nq:1]A few months later, I accidentally took one of her pills. That was an eye-opener.[/nq]
I've often thought about trying Rocky's drugs, just to see what he's going through. I once accidentally took a swig of his Pottasium Bromide (don't ask) and spat it out. Horrible, salty stuff. It gave me a renewed appreciation of the foodhound in him - he gets excited when I bring the bottle out of the fridge.

I certainly won't try his Phenobarbital. I'm afraid that I'll like it.

Matt. Rocky's a Dog.
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Melanie L Chang:
Fascinating. We are drugging our kids and dogs and maybe we should all see how it feels first.
I don't know how useful that would be because if you don't have the sort of condition that the drug is intended for, it isn't going to affect you in the same way. In this case, the drug was clearly inappropriate for the dog anyway because of the effects it had on her behavior.

Although I think Tracy's is an interesting case study, considering the large amount of data out there on the efficacy of meds + behavior modification for true OCD in dogs (see the ref cited by Melissa in an earlier post) I hope that the original poster explores that route.

Melanie Lee Chang > Form ever follows function. Departments of Anthropology and Biology >
University of Pennsylvania > Louis Sullivan (Email Removed) >
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VacationRenters.com:
[nq:2]We have a 1 yr old Golden Retriever. He has ... shining. Please any suggestions .. anyone with a similar problem?[/nq]
[nq:1]Hi, Tim... I have two deaf dogs. And yes, I have a similar problem. It seems that deaf dogs have ... NO LASER POINTERS! No flashlights - nothing like that. Let your dog chase a ball for exercise. Kind Regards, Tracy[/nq]
Ughh . I am afraid he has been doing this for some time .. the word engrained comes to mind! Drugs .. I think not .. this is a behavior not a chemical deficiency. I have been working with him correcting, praising and distracting as much as possible, tonight he was in the back of the truck, with a canopy on it, and was chasing lights all the way home .. I feel so bad for him .. just imagine being so fixated on something you can not catch!!
I appreciate all the advice from everyone .. I will continue to work with him and give his trainer a call, see if he has some other suggestions as well that I might incorporate. We just bought 6 acres so I am gonna try to get him out there daily .. see if I can exercise it out of him!

Thanks again to everyone!!

Tim
http://www.vacationrenters.com
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