Canine Compulsive Disorder: Border Collies Chasing Lights
Researchers from the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University are hunting for causes and solutions to canine compulsive disorders. The current study targets border collies who chase lights and shadows.
It can be a BIG problem, which is one reason I NEVER showed Lilly a laser pointer … as either a game or training reward.
Canine Compulsive Disorder Control Group
The research team invited Lilly to take part in the study as a member of the control group. In other words, Lilly can help because she does NOT chase lights and shadows.
That’s right. Amid all of her various dog-dog fears and generalized anxieties , Lilly has never shown any compulsive behaviors … either before taking behavior medicines or after.
I believe their goal is to study:
- 100 border collies who do chase lights and shadows
- 100 border collies who do not
The hope is that they’ll not only find a genetic link to this compulsion — the most common one in border collies (and other herding breeds) — but also explore which versions of the behavior respond best to which medicines.
More Border Collies Needed
If you have a border collie who fits into either of these categories, the Tufts team WANTS your help. They need your help. It’s pretty simple, really:
- Complete this Border Collie Compulsive Disorder Questionnaire.
- Have a veterinary technician at your veterinary hospital draw blood following these instructions.
- Sign this consent form and get the technician to sign as a witness.
- Ship the blood samples and paperwork to Dr. Niwako Ogata at the Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic.
Niwako Ogata, DVM, PhD
Animal Behavior Clinic
Tufts University, School of Veterinary Medicine
Dept. of Clinical Sciences
200 Westboro Rd
North Grafton MA 01536
Because Lilly has no compulsive behaviors, I got to skip 3 pages of the questionnaire. All told — including answering the study questions and drive time to the veterinary hospital and post office — I spent about 4 hours and $44 taking part.
The study budget covers both the blood draw and overnight shipping costs, so we included those receipts in the box with the blood and will be reimbursed.
Other Canine Compulsive Disorder Findings
Veterinary researchers have already isolated genes associated with flank sucking (a common compulsive behavior in dobermans) and genes associated with tail chasing (a common compulsive behavior in bull terriers).
And, the genes involved are different … interestingly enough.
So, findings from this border collie study could join these discoveries and provide:
- Partial genetic mapping for the breed
- Insights to breeders to avoid passing on a predisposition for canine compulsive behavior
- Treatment options for dogs already showing signs of compulsive tendencies
Canine Compulsive Disorder Treatments
This opportunity to take part in the border collie study came up while I did research for an article a few weeks ago. A few points of interest …
Canine compulsive disorder is the dog equivalent of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in people. In fact, findings from these dog studies have changed the way OCD is treated in people (a combination of retaining one brain chemical and blocking another). And, the only reason they don’t call it OCD in dogs is because “purists” argue that you cannot know that a dog is obsessing … even though they look to folks like us as if they are.
Canine compulsive disorder most often shows up in dogs when they reach “social maturity” (ages 1-3) or in response to a stressor of some sort. For example, it’s fairly common for dogs to develop these behaviors after a surgery or in response to a move or other change.
While there is no scientific proof that you can accidentally trigger canine compulsive disorder in dogs by exposing them to certain stimuli (like laser pointers), the connection is strongly suggested. Keep in mind, though, that we’re talking about dogs who have a likely predisposition toward compulsive behavior … not every dog.
My article includes the story of a dog who learned to chase a laser pointer Labor Day Weekend, and 6 weeks later was chasing lights and shadows to the point of exhaustion.
Successful treatment of canine compulsive disorders almost ALWAYS involves medicines. Once a compulsive behavior pattern has taken hold, it’s nearly impossible to break the cycle without a combination of behavior modification AND medications.
Dogs with canine compulsive disorders are suffering. Sometimes people find these behaviors funny or cute … like the dog I found in Utah who hoards, guards, and sleeps with rocks. He LOVES his rocks, but the truth is that he is suffering greatly. He has nearly non-stop anxiety about finding the “right” rock and protecting it once he has. He doesn’t respond kindly to anyone who tries to intervene.