Breed: Bull Terrier
Behavior Challenge: Obsessive Compulsive
Belle is a very good dog that experienced a problem many Bull Terrier’s face. She has an obsessive compulsive behavior issue. Many Bull Terrier OCD behaviors are in the form of tail chasing, but someone at one time had inadvertently played with Belle with a flashlight beam, getting her to fixate on and chase it. This “tripped her trigger” as it were, and from then on, Belle sought out reflections and shadows to fixate on and react to.
This made it almost impossible for her to be in a kitchen with stainless steel appliances or take a car ride because the shadows from passing lights and trees would cause her to dart about the car dangerously. Thankfully, Belle’s owners recognized that this was unhealthy and unsafe behavior and sought help.
Unfortunately, many people continue to think that obsessive light or tail chasing behavior in dogs is amusing or funny and continue to encourage the behavior. In reality, the dog is not really having fun, but feels a compulsion to to the behavior.
We needed to be able to communicate with Belle in a meaningful way if we were ever going to get her attention when she went into the “zone” (becoming fixated). We started with some basic obedience to create a communication system whereby she could understand when she was doing what we wanted her to do and when she was about to do something we did not want her to do. The basic obedience also gave her some much-needed mental stimulation–a task she could focus on instead of lights and shadows.
After some initial on-leash basic obedience to make walks safer and more enjoyable so Belle could get the regular physical exercise she needed, we did some additional work with relaxation and a place command. The place command helped keep her out of situations that might elicit the fixation and chasing, and if she DID get into a bad situation, we were able to interrupt her with some of the basic obedience she learned as a way to snap her out of it and help her regain control.
In Their Own Words – Our Client Experience
We were at a crossroads with our English Bull Terrier, Belle, when we contacted Paws n Motion for training help. Sarah responded to my email within a few hours and we talked about Belle’s issues and what she (Sarah) might be able to do to help. Sarah came to assess Belle’s OCD behavior of shadow-chasing and worked with Belle to instill a higher level of obedience with her in hopes of curtailing this compulsive behavior. Sarah came to our house for five straight days and began training Belle with the chain correction collar. Belle really responded well. We had tried the 9-week clicker/treat training somewhere else with Belle, but it was way too complicated and ended up being ineffective. I really connected with Sarah’s philosophy of giving a command and correcting with a tug of the collar if the dog does not obey. It simply makes more sense!
We felt that Belle would benefit from further training, so we signed up for the two-week boot camp to have Belle fully trained. Let me digress to say that Bull Terriers are naturally very stubborn and hard to train and Belle was indeed! So off to boot camp Belle went.
Even though Sarah doesn’t board dogs as part of her services, she generously offered to keep Belle and work with her for up to three hours total per day. They provided a couple of youtube videos of Belle’s progress along the way which was great to see! When Sarah brought Belle home after the two weeks she was a trained dog! She had learned all the basic commands for good social behavior (sit, heel, down, on your mat, etc.). Belle is much more calm and more pleasant to live with in our house. The shadow-chasing has decreased dramatically and is handled by sending her to her mat and having her stay. She has learned “patience” exercises and other useful commands.
I am (we) are very pleased with what Sarah has done with Belle. It’s amazing to see how far Belle was able to go with her training when we were almost about to give up. She is completely manageable and pleasant to be around. I credit Sarah for this! Sarah has been professional at every instance from phone conversations, training, follow-up information, and research and handing our instructions to us. I highly, highly recommend Paws n Motion!
Claire, St. Paul