Ask the Experts: Tail Chasing & Injuries?
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We have a 4 1/2 year old pit boxer mix we have had since she was a puppy. She has been crated during the day almost from the first day we got her because she has a penchant for feasting on our cat. About two weeks ago my daughter forgot to lock her up before she left for the day, I came home to blood all over the rug and walls. We could not find a mark on the dog and were puzzled, She is also drinking large quantities of water. A week later it happened again in the laundry room, blood on the walls, doors… It is not a small amount of blood either, there is an arterial spray and still we found no injury. We took her to the vet and they found no physical problems. One morning I heard her chasing her tail in the crate which is a x lg crate and she is a med size dog. She stopped when I told her NO. We decided to put a camera in the kitchen to see what she is doing in her crate all day and were totally shocked to find that she was spinning around for five hours . She would spin till she fell over, rest a minute and start all over again. While she is spinning she hit her nose and that is were the blood came from from. We bought her a smaller crate so she couldn’t spin and it has worked for the past two nights. This was great except today I came home let the dogs out (we also have a 5 1/2 year old lab pit mix not crated with her) I let them in and went back outside. When I came back in a few minutes later she was in the laundry room spinning and barking and there was blood all over the room, when she saw me she stopped. I am concerned that she is getting worse and feel she has had a mental break. She has never had any issues and has always been a well behaved dog, just a little hyper. We cannot on good conscious leave her in the crate while we are at work and then have to crate her again when we go outside to work on our land. She sleeps on a pillow beside our bed in the evening. We are afraid that her behavior will escalate and harm will come her, to our daughter or other family member. Our vet has recommended we try medication and a last resort would be euthanasia. Help!!!!
Chasing a tail obsessively is a disorder best treated by a combination of medication and behavior modification. Prozac or another drug will probably help your dog feel better, but can take some time to kick in. Over the counter medication that can help immediately might be Rescue Remedy or Sleepytime Tonic. This is a severe dog behavior problem and although physically limiting her ability to spin can help prevent injuries, it will not address the underlying issue. You boxer needs to be on a drastically increased exercise regime and needs to be engaged in mental exercises as well to keep her from obsessing over her tail. To get you started, running and jogging, obedience work, agility training, or even dog daycare could all be outlets for your dog. Puzzle toys should be used exclusively to feed your dog. A variety of puzzle toys like Kong toys, Nina Ottoson toys, and various toys from Premier Pet could all be used to get your dog engaged in something. Please consult a qualified dog behaviorist in your area for additional help.
About the Expert: Jaime Van Wye is the CEO and Lead Dog Trainer at the Zoom Room, which offers classes in dog agility, obedience, puppy preschool, therapy dog, tricks training, and a wide range of specialty classes such as Shy Dog for newly-adopted rescue dogs. Ms. Van Wye has trained dogs in search and rescue, bomb and drug detection, criminal apprehension and tracking. She is a Certified Master Dog Trainer, a graduate of the North State K9 Academy, and a Professional Level Member of the International Association of Canine Professionals.
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