Shadow-Dancing Dog

Is your dog chasing its shadow?

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Q. I have an adorable 2-year-old English Bulldog named Bianca. I adore her, but she has an interesting problem of chasing shadows. At first, I thought she might have a serious mental problem, but now I think it's a game for her. She acts normal most of the time but for the other 12 hours of the day she is disengaged with humans or dogs and chases shadows. Even if we take her to the dog park, she follows humans around to jump on their moving shadows. People think it's amusing, but I think it isn't healthy for her or us! I'm wondering if she has obsessive-compulsive disorder or if this is just a bad habit. Do you have any suggestions for helping us put an end to this?

Dr. Jon GellerA. How unique, a shadow-chasing Bulldog! I picture her as a four-legged Peter Panwhose face has been dramatically shortened, and is in need of some cosmetic dentistry.

As long as she acts normally for most of the time, I would say no worries. If you really want her to stop chasing shadows, you could do the following:

1. Only take her out at high noon or on moonless nights, when there are no shadows.

2. Only take her on walks in cemeteries, where many of the inhabitants cast no shadows.

In the meantime, enjoy Bianca's clownish behavior, and allow her to entertain and amuse all of the shadow-casting humans she encounters.

Best,
Jon Geller, DVM

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John   Carol Stream, IL

3/14/2009 4:29:28 PM

Dr. Yin's response here is right on. Any dog that spends 12 hours per day chasing shadows has a serious quality of life issue and needs some help. Finding a veterinarian who has an interest in animal behavior can be done at the web site of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) at www.avsabonline.org. Included in the search list for "Find an AVSAB Veterinarian" will be general practicing veterinarians and some board certified veterinary behaviorists. For a complete list of board certified veterinary behaviorists, go to www.dacvb.org. This is the web site of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
(ACVB).

John Ciribassi DVM, Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary
Behaviorists
Chicagoland Veterinary Behavior
COnsultants
www.
chicagovetbehavior.com
John, Carol Stream,
IL
Posted: 3/14/2009 4:27:31 PM

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Sophia Yin   Davis, CA

3/14/2009 11:30:57 AM

Dr.
Geller:

I'm a veterinarian and executive board member of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (I hope this note is going to you directly before being posted on the site). I just wanted to point out that this dog most likely does have compulsive disorder. Such disorders can be life threatening if they take up a large portion of the dog's day (as they do in this case). Treatment involves a combination of both medication and behavior modification. Behavior modification consists of a stepwise program of rewarding the dog for alternate appropriate behaviors and should avoid punishment or coercion as they can make this particular type of condition worse. I have an article on this at http://www.askdryin.com/publications.php called Spin Out: Canine compulsive disorder is no laughting matter. This owner should take her dog to see a veterinary behaviorist (To find one go to
www.AVSABonline.org).

Please email me or AVSAB if you have any questions regarding behavior issues in pets as we are always willing to
help.

Thanks for your
time

Sophia Yin,
DVM
www.AskDrYin.com

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