It must be understood that a fixation or obsessive behavior over an object is a serious issue, no matter how funny it looks. Unfortunately, many owners are responsible for the condition’s progression in their dog because they either missed the signs or fed the obsession. Little things like your dog’s more than usual interest in a particular toy, another (smaller animal such as a cat), light beams, a ball, a person, or anything for that matter, can quickly grow into an obsession, so you should never enable the behavior. Please read on for tips (adopted from Cesar Milan) on what to do to respond in such a situation. Purebred Breeders hopes that these tips help, but if not, we ask that you seek the advice of a professional on dog behavior.
Tips on Handling Fixation
Identify the problem. Your pooch is likely to become glazed over, unresponsive and unaware of the things around him or her that usually brings joy. Purebred Breeders would like to point out that this is not a nice place to be mentally, so don’t be fooled into thinking your dog is having fun when he or she goes after the object being fixated on. Once you have identified a possible fixation, you must find ways to prevent it from developing further.
Purebred Breeders would like to point out that the best course of action is prevention. The beauty of prevention is that it either allows you to avoid the problem if you notice the signs early, or helps you to curb any worsening of the problem while you work to fix it. The easiest form of prevention is setting boundaries. Make sure your dog understands where he or she can go, how long he or she is allowed to play, and what he or she can play with. This said, do not spend hours playing fetch with a ball or stick your dog has a more than normal interest in. Do not whip out the flashlight to watch your pooch jump all over the place trying to catch the light it expels, and set up physical barriers to prevent your pooch from running out of the yard to chase the neighbor’s cat until he or she learns to leave it alone. These are just some of the more basic examples.
The key thing to realize is that a fixation or obsession usually develops when your dog links the object with releasing frustration, pent-up energy or anxiety. This means that paying attention to signs of stress, as well as providing sufficient mental stimulation and physical exercise, is vital to managing obsessions. A bored dog, or one with excess energy, can easily develop a fixation. You also want to learn ways to calm your pooch down at the first sign of a fixation episode, such as a stiffening of the body, since you are unlikely to get through to the dog once he or she becomes glazed over.
If the fixation is an object, then it is best to leave it where it is until the dog is no longer interested and moves away. If you catch the dog at an early stage in the physical changes, then you may be able to give a command to leave the object that the dog will actually hear and heed. Never pick up the object, since this may force the dog to attack you or result in a bite. Children should also be taught never to touch a dog’s toys when he or she has them, or to try to pry something from a dog if he or she seems attached to it. Purebred Breeders also recommends that you try incorporating the object into obedience training, along with a command to leave it alone, and treats when successful. However, this must be done when the dog is not in an episode. You should also desist if seeing the object automatically puts the dog into fixation mode and seek professional advice.