Skip to content

OCD In Dogs – Signs, Diagnosis, Treatments & FAQ

Written by Assistant
Assistant is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Published on
Monday 11 October 2021
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
obsessive compulsive disorders for dogs
This page may contain affiliate links. We may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in dogs is a recognized behavioral disorder which describes repeated behavior that originates due to negative feelings in your dog. Owners may not initially notice it as not all the behaviors themselves are abnormal, but the frequency. It is important to identify this disorder for two reasons: the behavior can be damaging and the behavior indicates that something is wrong. It can be a sign of stress, pain, and illness.

We will be detailing common behaviors that occur because of OCD as well as other signs of OCD. This way you will be able to identify when this disorder is affecting your do and what to do about it. Catching these behaviors quickly can stop them before they escalate to injury. Furthermore, noticing dog OCD will allow you to further research why your dog’s behavior may be occurring. Another point we will be diving into to help you find the root cause of your dog’s anxiety. So let’s take a look.

What is Dog Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Dog obsessive compulsive disorder holds many similarities to human OCD. It revolves around the repetition of behavior performed by your dog. Human OCD has many accompanying symptoms such as overthinking, obsessive organizing, and even hoarding. Whereas dog OCD, although similar, has some differences. OCD in dogs is mainly categorized by the repeated behavior but is usually explained through anxiety. However, there are many different negative causes that can be linked to OCD in dogs.

It is important to note that just because a behavior is frequent, it does not necessarily mean that your dog has OCD. A good example of this is frequent itching in the same area. This could be explained through fleas, skin irritation, and even other insect bites. The behavior must have no direct reason, such as licking the same spot with no itching or other cause. If the behavior has a direct cause then this is unlikely to be OCD. Looking at the behavior your dog is displaying and analyzing the reasons that could initiate this behavior can help you to decipher if it is initiated by OCD or something else.

Different personalities may manifest OCD behavior differently. Those that are quite anxious in nature may show more anxious behaviors, such as yowling or even tics. Those with more confident personalities may display less anxious behaviors such as grooming or even self-harm. Knowing a dog’s personality type can help you to identify the type of behavior they may display. So if you are suspicious then analyze their nature and compare this to the behavior.

ocd in dogs signs
OCD in dogs can be as simple as obsessively licking an item or body part.

What Causes It

There is no one cause for dog OCD. It can originate due to pre-disposition such as genetics, environmental factors, and internal influences. It is almost always caused by a negative change, either generally or in your dog’s eyes. Some of the most common include social or timetable changes, pain, and frustration to name a few.

If you were to buy another dog in your household of one, that is enough to upset your dog’s natural hierarchy within the household. They have a set routine that brings them comfort and this is disrupted by a new family member, even if this is a new baby or pet. When there is a new member inserted into their family structure, or even if their timetable is disrupted, they can feel deep distress. This stress can manifest into anxiety behaviors that repeat as a form of self-comfort, then progressing to OCD.

Another cause can be pain, physical or emotional. If your dog has an injury then they may try to self-soothe. This can be on the injury site or elsewhere as a distraction. This licking and grooming can then become a habit, so your dog repeatedly grooms this area, especially during times of stress. Lastly, frustration or boredom is a very common cause for OCD. If your dog is at home and is feeling boredom, they may try to put that energy elsewhere, for example, chewing or barking. In a similar fashion, your dog may be distracting or expressing themselves through physical outlets. This then becomes habit and so forward.


OCD symptoms may seem like they would be obvious to spot, but in dogs they can be quite mild. Often the actions that they perform are those that your dog has done time and time again, such as scratching. So trying to recognize when the behavior is abnormal, or they are displaying it at odd times, it can be difficult to identify. What is key is to note when the behavior is being displayed at an abnormal frequency or at unusual times. Your dog licking their paw is a normal behavior. However, if they wake up repeatedly in the night to do so, with the same area of the same paw, this can be a warning sign.

The behaviors can breach normal and target concerning behaviors or those that are very unusual. Self-mutilation and self-harm are often the forms that come about. Hair-pulling, body-chewing, and even rubbing the body into sharp objects can be themes. In the case of hair-pulling the symptoms may be the repercussions of the behavior. Such as hair loss, skin irritation, bleeding, dandruff, and more hairballs around the house. Notice any physical body changes from your dog or emotional changes to signify that something could be wrong.


Another concern can be disrupting this behavior. Often with dogs that are displaying OCD behaviors you can struggle with or be unable to interrupt it. This can be minimal, for example, when you call your dog they do not stop their OCD behavior. However, it can be severe. If your dog is obsessively licking the floor, you could try to physically move them from the area and they will pull back to continue to lapping. This is different from a dog licking the floor after you’ve spilled food, then you trying to stop them doing so. This difficulty will occur every time the OCD behavior is performed.


Getting a diagnosis can be a lengthy process which involves a timeline of elimination. Firstly the symptoms will be evaluated as they are, to see what could be causing them directly. If your dog is whining a lot, vets will perform tests to examine if they are in pain. They may then monitor them and ask questions to evaluate their fear and anxiety level. By eliminating the regular causes for constant whining, OCD then becomes an option to consider. However, if a vet were to immediately assume that OCD is the case, they could miss possible injuries or illnesses that are hurting your dog.

Behaviorists can often work in ties with vets. They will record your dog’s behavior and can make professional assessments with estimations of causes as well. If you are able to hire a behaviorist after your vet suspects dog OCD, then they can help speed up the process and confirm a diagnosis. However, do so based off of the advice of your vet as a new person could increase anxiety and affect the process.


Furthermore, your dog will be monitored for a period of time to identify OCD after other factors have been eliminated. Noting the number of occasions that the behavior occurs daily, when it occurs, whether you can distract your dog among other factors can help your vet to confirm the diagnosis. Therefore, your input as the owner will be crucial to gain a proper, and accurate diagnosis. Therefore, you need to be ready to monitor your dog for a number of weeks with detailed logs about their behavior and side effects. Obviously if the behavior is more extreme, your vet will have to interfere. In the case of obsessively licking, your dog may have to wear a cone. Your monitoring then may be of them licking the cone in the location where their paw would be.


The treatment, like the cause, can be quite varied. It all depends on what has induced the OCD behavior. Animal behaviorists can help to identify a cause and find the appropriate treatment for your individual. They are great for advising a tailored plan as opposed to something general. Furthermore, treating your dog may include medical interference. Your vet will be able to advise the use of drugs in cases that are severe, influenced by genetics, or cannot influence the change which has induced the situation. However, if you are interested in pursuing the treatment by yourself, we have a few examples for you to look through.

dogs with ocd needed help
Extreme patience and consistency is needed in order to help your dog’s OCD.


A common case that induces OCD behavior is a change of situation or environment. Creating a structure with beneficial behavioral changes can help aid your dog in their treatment. Firstly, organize a daily schedule and try to keep a routine as much as you can. Secondly, use positive reinforcement, playing, and exercise to keep your dog engaged and distracted from pursuing the behavior. Note that this is a lengthy process and will require patience and perseverance.

Another example is if your dog suffers from a physical injury. This behavior may occur from the pain and discomfort they feel. It may also originate due to the frustration your dog feels from not being able to engage in normal behavior before the injury, such as running before a leg injury. Getting your dog’s injury treated with pain killers, antibiotics, physical therapy and anything else can help to prevent the OCD behavior. Getting them back to themselves is the key to minimizing this unhealthy coping mechanism.

Also note that punishing your dog will never alter their OCD behavior. It can actually increase the severity and frequency of your dog’s symptoms. Evaluate the specific signs and tailor the treatment for them with their welfare as a priority.

Dog Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – FAQs

More questions concerning your dog and OCD? We’ve got you covered.

How can I help my dog with OCD?

When it comes to OCD we recommend consulting the professionals. Each case is so individual and the treatment can vary dramatically. Between the aid of a vet and a behaviorist, they can advise the best methods to pursue to help your dog get back to normal. Remain patient and don’t scold or become angry with your dog at any time. This can induce OCD behavior and even increase the severity over time.

How can I calm down an obsessive dog?

Calming your dog when they are obsessive can include a few different changes:

– Keeping the room quiet
– Ensuring the area is dark
– Gently distracting them with attention or play

To help your dog most effectively be sure to ask the opinion of a professional who knows them and their OCD well. Interrupting your dog while they are in the middle of an OCD behavior can be stressful for them, although this is sometimes necessary. Distraction is often recommended instead as a positive solution to deter your dog.

Can Dog OCD be fatal?

If the obsessive behavior is dangerous then it is possible. Self-mutilation is a prime example of a behavior that could result in death. Repeated injury leads to blood loss, scarring, infection, all of which can cause death. Obviously more mild behaviors are not fatal, but that does not mean that the damage inflicted by them is not severe. Licking can lead to open sores, inflamed skin, and a wound that may get infected. Even obsessive barking can lead to sore throats, a lack of sleep, even dehydration. OCD is an issue that can damage your dog in multiple ways and the sooner support is attained, the better.

Can I leave dog OCD untreated?

Although in some cases you can, we would always advise for you to seek help from a professional. Leaving mild OCD behavior can allow it to develop into a severe problem. Leaving a severe problem can result in deadly consequences. Seek the help of a behaviorist and vet to help your dog not only stay healthy, but happy. As this condition can be stressful and draining for your dog.

Are specific breeds more prone to getting OCD?

According to Tang et al. (2014), there are some dog breeds that are more prone to OCD. These include the:

Doberman Pinscher
Shetland Sheepdog
German Shepherd
Bull Terrier

This means that the breeds listed here are more likely to develop OCD so it is worth monitoring them when signs occur and going to the vet promptly.

Dog obsessive compulsive disorder can be aided with proper professional help. Even when it occurs minimally, the problem can increase in severity over time. Helping your dog as soon as the issue arises allows you time to help them, as well as aids you before the problem gets worse. OCD in dogs is an issue that can be life-dominating and can take a lot of time to help. Having patience and persevering with their tailored treatment with eventually benefit your dog. This behavior is not only concerning, but can affect your dog’s mood greatly. Be sure to get them support as soon as possible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *