Pet owners love their animals very much, and many treat their pets like family, as if they were human members of their household. In return, our pets give us the love and attention we need and crave from them, without hesitation or expecting anything in return. However, there are times when your pet’s affection can seem excessive and overwhelming at times, even a bit more like an obsession than love. With puppies and very young dogs, this behavior is not uncommon and may be more dog separation anxiety than real obsession, coupled with the fact that they truly just love you and love being near you.
STRESS OR OBSESSION?
When your puppy or young dog exhibits extreme behavior, it is easier to deal with if you understand what he is feeling and having to deal with emotionally. Separation anxiety and stress can be difficult for your dog, as he deals with the physiological changes that will occur from his loneliness when you are not around, and the fear he experiences because he is not sure you will be coming back. His heart will race, he may become depressed, which will further manifest itself by loss of appetite. In many instances, a destructive behavior pattern may begin, such as chewing at items that have your scent, or clawing at doors that are closed in an effort to locate you. Like humans, each dog is different, and will deal with these emotions in varying degrees in order to cope with their stress.
It is easy to mistake habits of happiness and love with those of real obsession. For instance, if your dog greets you at the door with his tail wagging the moment you walk into the house from being gone all day, or gives you the same sort of greeting such as a gleeful bark and jumping up and down; well, that is a warm “hello”. This sort of behavior simply signals happiness that you are home, and shows you that your dog knows you were coming home, and he wants you to know he is pleased. These displays of affection last for a few moments and then your dog resumes his normal, relaxed posture and returns to whatever he was doing before you arrived.
When your dog is obsessed, you will notice extremes in behavior patterns. Obsessive behavior in dogs can include the following: if he sits outside a door to a bathroom or bedroom where you have gone, and does not move from that spot for hours, forsaking meals, or any other regular routines or needs, then this could be considered an obsession. If you leave him at the door when you go to work and he is in the exact same spot when you return, and evidence shows that he has not eaten any food or drank any water, this could be cause for real concern. At first this may seem odd or even cause you to laugh at times; however, if not dealt with, this could negatively affect your dog’s health, particularly if he fails to eat or drink water.
Addiction to their owner or obsessions that inhibit the normal, healthy, daily routines, such as eating, sleeping or even playing with toys to get exercise, may require some special attention on the part of the owner to help him resume his normal, healthy lifestyle. Your veterinarian will be able to help you determine which behaviors are normal and which are extreme and might require some intervention. He will also be able to offer tips and helpful information on resources that can aid you in dealing with these obsessive behaviors.
It is important to remember that it is harder to break a well established bad habit than it is to prevent a behavior from becoming a problem. At the earliest sign of a problem, it is important to start taking measures to correct the behavior swiftly before it get sout of control.
HOW TO IDENTIFY OBSESSION
A general rule for identifying obsession is to take note of the level of intensity your dog displays with a behavior. Here are some examples:
Obsessive behaviors are most often simply outlets your dog has discovered to help him deal with the stress or anxiety he is feeling. As the owner, you need to show your dog what the acceptable limits are and normal routines should be.
- Exercise – Obsession can sometimes be pent up energy manifesting itself. Make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise, both to utilize the extra energy he has, and also to spend more time with you, which will make him feel closer to you and more secure emotionally.
- Treat your dog like a dog – Research suggests that owners who treat their pets like humans make it more difficult for their dog to distinguish what is acceptable “canine behavior”, simply because they are allowed exceptions to canine rules while being given human privileges. Dogs need clear-cut rules and boundaries and well defined limitations in order to behave in a calm, enjoyable, reasonable manner. In a dog/owner relationship, the owner must be the pack leader, the “alpha dog”, or there will be chaos within the pack.
- Affection – Constant affection without limits will teach your dog that this is the “norm” and that he is to expect no less, at all times. Unfortunately, if an owner continues to express limitless amounts of love and affection, a dog will have no idea how to fit any other activities into his day, or that other activities or behaviors are even normal. If you love your dog, he will know it by your care, the tone of your voice and the normal amounts of attention and affection you show him.
How do you show your dog you love him without going overboard? Share with us in the comments!