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Need encouraging stories about OCD dogs...

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I'm feeling discouraged and need to hear your encouraging stories about difficult reactive OCD dogs. :-(

We adopted Merlin a year ago. He was 3 years old and had been given to a shelter by his previous owner. We know very little about his life before: he was with the same owner for 3 years until he moved in with his girlfriend, who had "a little dog", the two of them didn't get along well and they decided to give Merlin. He was with 2 different foster families for 2 months until we adopted him.

Since the beginning, we noticed Merlin was very anxious and fearful. He had this spinning behavior and obsession with the neighbor's cat that worried us and he was not interested in toys or in playing games. We did a 2-week test before officially adopting Merlin and I remember sitting on the floor and crying one day because I already loved him, but I wondered whether we should return him and try to find a "normal" dog. Of course, we ended up keeping him.

Time passed and nothing changed much. Merlin was an anxious, fearful dog who had very little interest in us. I assume he was raised as an "object" and had very little attention from his former owner, never learned how to play with humans, never learned to have fun with toys or games or tricks.

We first tried going to a group obedience class, thinking it would help him learn new things and bond with us, but it was a disaster. We knew very little about the different training techniques and the "no violence" method this trainer offered turned out to be pretty violent, with choking collars and scaring the dog to respect you. It didn't help Merlin at all.

We finally found a positive reinforcement professional and we tried a few training techniques. But Merlin is not very crazy about food and treats, so we have a hard time making progress.

We tried several natural aids to help him calm down, with no or very little success. We ended up asking a veterinarian to give us something to help him. He made a lot of progress with fluoxetine (calmer, fewer spins, no more shut downs, more interest in us) but with time he started developing a reactivity with other dogs on the street (barking and snapping).

We finally had an appointment with a veterinary behaviorist, that diagnosed Merlin with OCD and did not discard neurological problems (due to his pretty intense shut downs).

She changed the drug from fluoxetine to fluvoxamine to see if it could help with the reactivity. She said he could have adverse reactions during 5 days or so (like more anxiety). Since day 2 he was at already 10x more anxious, restarted old behaviors like the spinning and shut downs (which had been gone for a couple months with the fluoxetine) and started having terrible panic attacks whenever we went for a walk. By panic attack I mean barking non-stop and spinning and pulling on the leash for no obvious reason (no dog, no cat, no person, no car: nothing). The vet told us to try for a few more days, so he was on fluvoxamine for 10 days. The next step would be to wait 1 week and then try another drug (Clomicalm).

And this is where we are now. It's been 5 days we stopped the fluvoxamine and no sign of Merlin getting back to normal. I'm starting to lose hope he will ever stop those panic attacks on the street. We need to go for walks for his pee/poo needs, so we have to live with that for the moment.

Sorry for the long text, but I needed to get it off my chest. :-(

I would love to hear your stories of difficult dogs that eventually got better with the help of drugs and/or time, patience and love.



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It sounds really rough. I'm sorry. I don't have any special expertise and having a (mildly) neurotic BC is brand new to me - 2 weeks in - and everyday I am looking for solutions to satisfy her mental and physical needs as she (hopefully) adjusts to this new life and calms down. It's clear that your waiting game is different. It's very interesting that the dog engaged with you more when you were able to get some of the OCD under control, it sounds like it gave you access to a consciousness that is overwhelmed with the other issues when off meds. I would interpret that as a sign that 1) there is a dog under that ball of stress that is worth your efforts and grateful for it, and 2) that medicating these issues IS at least a part of the solution. I would take those points as encouragement, and next try to make the best of those options by supplementing with any adjustments in living conditions or activities - It sounds like the fluoxetine worked best, but made him reactive, was still the best of the lot. Is it possible to go with that and keep him away from other dogs (forever)?


Best of luck.

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I would maybe talk to the vet about switching back to fluoxetine and continue to work on the reactivity. The Look at That game from Control Unleashed may help. There are videos on Youtube showing this game/technique to help you get a better idea of how it works.


I also wonder, does he have any dog friends? When we got Levi he had pretty much only had negative interactions with other dogs. He lived outside on a farm and the other male border collie and the 'house' jack russells beat him up (he had bite marks on his face/neck when we picked him up). In the beginning he was so scared he would see the smallest dog walking several houses away and tuck his tail, growl and sometimes refuse to move. I figured one way to help him is to find even one dog that he could be pals with who could understand him. I figure other dogs know better than me with some things. Turns out well-behaved female golden retrievers were his favorite at first. I was able to pair him up with a few dogs so he could just learn how to be a dog and it definitely seemed to help. He now has had many dog friends over the years (turns out he also loved little yorkie type mixes)... pretty much any respectful, chill, easy going dog could be his friend eventually. In the beginning, his time spent with other dogs really brought out this playful, joyous side of him I hadn't seen yet while just spending time with his human family.


Do you know anyone with a dog that he may get a long with? See if any of your friends, neighbors or family are willing to help and take walks with you and their well-behaved, low-key dogs. It helped me to have dogs to work with that belonged to people I knew- I wasn't so hung up on Levi embarrassing me (like I was in public) and I wasn't so worried about him biting their dog (he has never bitten a dog). Even if you just take walks near each other and distract yourself by having a conversation with your friend, may help things.


Not sure if any of this applies to you but just throwing out what worked for us.

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I have one for you, but in order to avoid writing you a novel I'm going to link you to an off-site thread where I kept track of the whole thing. Its title is a little deceptive because it started when I went on meds with my girl but it covers it all over a little over a year.




The thread is REALLY long, but there are pictures and commentary and successes amongst other people's comments. It's just something I felt I really *needed* to do for the dog community at large.

Hope it helps you find some, well, hope.

Oh and what I actually *did* is here: http://www.dogforums.com/general-dog-forum/422457-medicating-molly-5.html About the middle of the page.

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All the best wishes to you and your dog!


One of my puppies turned very reactive at about 3 yo and it turned out she had a thyroid problem, after medicating her she went back to normal. The thing is she didn't look like a thyroid problem dog to the owner's vet and her thyroid work up was only a little off. But behaviorally she was a wreck. After taking the owner to my vet with the dog and a few months later after taking her prescription she changed back to herself. So she had gone from a certified therapy dog and agility competitor to a total nervous, behavioral wreck with panic attacks, and unable to function, and then back to a normal dog.


Another possibility may be perhaps endocrine pancreatic insufficiency, the resulting Vit B12 would cause a lot of neurological problems - which your vet suspects.


This is just a small suggestion, where the dog's behavior is strongly affected by the physical problem it has. I hope you can find a way to some improvement, and I'm sending you a big hug all the way from Poland.

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I'm so sorry that you & Merlin are having this tremendously difficult problem. My personal human experience is that any given drug doesn't work for everyone, I had to try a couple different anti-depressants before finding the one for me. My dog related experience is that clomicalm was a miracle worker for my very-badly-treated girl, Shoshone.


Read LauraV's post about her foster. She asked for advice about a foster dog and got recommendations to let him go at his own pace, rather than coaxing. And, as of yesterday it seems she's having some great results!


From what you write, IMO Merlin needs medication, first. I think there is someone at Tufts Univ. Vet School who will do phone consults w/your local vet, if you want to look into that.


Best of luck, please let us know how you get on.


Ruth & Gibbs

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My friend Susan, whom I've known through running agility, has been where you are with her Shellie Asta. She has written several articles about her journey. Ill try to share them here, even though I'm on my phone and a techno idiot. Rats, can't paste. You can Google the articles written by Susan Klavon titled:



By Susan Klavon


Beauty for Ashes

Good luck.

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I will relate my recent experience briefly, if you would like details you can contact me.


Sold a bc pup to a middle aged couple. Had dogs in the past, this would be their first bc, wanted an active dog to go places do things with, kids grown off to college...fenced yard, worked from home...Picked a middle of the litter quiet pup that was confident for them. Picked her up at 8 wks old in mid Feb. Heard from them in mid April, pup was growling at them and would not let them have a bone she was chewing on. Come to find out when I called there were other issues - pulling on a leash, barking at strangers, possessive of food and toys. The usual puppy stuff that if you nip it in the bud first time it doesn't develop into more. I had the parents, had litter mates, no issues. I chalked it up to allowing the pup to get away with lots of little things that lead to this point. Told them she was acting as if she was equal to the people treating them as if they were litter mates and just being a bossy girl that needed more structure and to understand her role in the family ect. Said bring her down and I will work with her and you, easy to fix. Had a stockdog clinic coming up perfect since lots of people and dogs she did not know. They said they would work on it and understood they had been letting her get away with behaviors trying to appease her rather than correct the wrong stuff.


Heard from them a year later ready to give me back the dog. Tried group obedience classes was asked not to return because dog was lounging and barking at people and dogs. Tried animal behaviorist, drugs, bite their vet, couldn't kennel her or have anyone watch her because she was so bad. Fine bring her back. They decided to try one more time, leave her with me for 10 days while on vaccine. Great. Dog came for boot camp. I had 10 days to teach her a whole new set of skills or she was going to loose her home.


they show up, she is ok but looking at me like she was going to put me to the test, I expected that. On a leash owner walks her around the yard with me walking with them. She growls letting me know she wanted me gone, sorry not leaving. She didn't know what to think then, always worked in the past. Owner would take her home, cross to the side of the street...she always got her way. Owner 'corrected' with a lie down - not a correction at all in her eyes since she continually repeated the action. .


He went to the car so I was walking her, she was doing fine still trying to get a read on me. He walked up to us and she lounged and snarled at me while I was holding the leash. Told me two things - his presence gave her permission to be a jerk and she could be nice when he was not around. I had a bath towel in my hand for her crate, I flipped that in between us, leash corrected and verbally corrected Hard. Totally unacceptable behavior and I was going to let her know that crap does not fly here. She thought I was going to come unglued, she backed up so I advanced continuing to scold, she backed up more and turned her head away. She gave- telling me she understood her error and said she was sorry.

That is what I wanted. She understood she was wrong, I was not going to put up with that and she said she was sorry GIVING ME RESPECT. Dogs have to give you trust and respect, you can not take it or make them give it. In the 10 days she was here never repeated that behavior, even when he picked her up.


We worked on leash manners, going in and out of a crate when asked, laying quietly in the house, even took her on two outings. Never lounged at anyone, even a crowed vet office narrow hallway, did grumble once which I corrected.

No drugs, no treats, I just let her know what is expected of her and corrected the behaviors I did not want. She needed someone she could not scare, or buffalo. Someone who had clear rules and structure and could explain it clearly to her. I meant what I said and said what I meant.


I really believe when dogs tend to be a bit timid, fearful, fear aggressive... if we step up confidently like LIFE is not a big deal they see and feel that. They relax because we take that leadership role. When we are careful, cautious it makes them worry. They feel us worried and must think 'gosh what has them worried now I am really concerned'


If you have never been whitewater rafting would you feel better with someone who says - Now be very careful, watch so step, go slow - walking slow, watching all around, nervously OR Hey you will love this, here are a few things we will do, I will be right here if you need anything, ok lets go, walks out there gets in the raft like he owns the world??


If we are worried about what the dog will do with people walking up we almost ensure the dog will react because we are worried. The dog feels those emotions. Ever notice nervous uptight people have nervous dogs? Confident people tend to have quiet confident dogs. If your dog has you worried it is totally understandable but you need to find someone who is kind, consistent and confident to work with him.


Are they ever going to be a super confident dog that does not worry, probably not but they learn by example that most things in life are no big deal.

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Two of my dogs have OCD or CCD (Canine Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Fortunately neither one of them is very severe and it doesn't really affect their daily life at all. Tommy bites at shadows and Joey spins.


But I just read an article on a study of CCD. The scientists were conducting the study because they wanted to see if what they could learn from CCD would be helpful for humans that suffer from this disorder.


I was really interested in this because I have OCD. Right after the mortgage market crashed about 10 years ago I lost my job. It was a particularly stressful time and my OCD got really bad. I have the kind where I have to check things over and over. I am a pet sitter. I could get into the houses and get everything done but then I couldn't get back out of the house. I would begin checking things over and over and over. Half an hour later I would still be stuck in the house just compulsively checking .. It got so bad that I didn't think I would be able to work.


So I went for help. The doctor put me on high dose Prozac. I was taking 40mg a day for 8 months. It was a miserable 8 months because one of the side effects was that I couldn't sleep. But it worked. Ten years later I am still ok. I still have the OCD a little but now I check things maybe once or twice. I can just lock the door and leave.


The reason I related this is because in the study referenced above the doctors used Prozac to treat the dog's OCD. And they had good results. It really did make a difference.


Prozac doesn't work instantly. It took me about 6 weeks to see any difference at all. But then slowly, slowly things began to improve.


I will try to find that article so I can put the link out here.



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Two of my dogs have OCD or CCD (Canine Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).


My curiosity has to ask if this is self diagnosed or does a vet diagnose this condition? I have a reactive four year old male that is a great pet/friend but he has certain triggers that I can't see him having any control over. When I've brought up to the vet they just say sure, they can put him on drugs but it's a commitment to me to make sure I dose him consistently and that it's no short term solution. But I've never seen any attempt from the vet to diagnose him with CCD.

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I really believe when dogs tend to be a bit timid, fearful, fear aggressive... if we step up confidently like LIFE is not a big deal they see and feel that. They relax because we take that leadership role. When we are careful, cautious it makes them worry. They feel us worried and must think 'gosh what has them worried now I am really concerned'


I wanted to respond to this line. I don't discount your experience with this one dog, but as someone who previously owned a fearful and reactive border collie, I've gotta say that this line of advice is not at all helpful.


I brought my old dog Buddy home at 2-3 years of age, knowing nothing about his issues or about reactivity in general. He was terrified at the shelter, and beautiful, and I felt bad for him, so I adopted him. And BAM! What a surprise.


I walked into our first few weeks with blithe confidence: I'd owned many dogs, and none of them had had issues. I treated Buddy like a "normal" dog - and watched as he attacked other dogs I let approach, and lunged and growled at other people we passed.


I didn't enter into our relationship with fear and trepidation - I had total confidence. And after a couple weeks, I GAINED fear and trepidation, based on the very real scenes I had witnessed. Of course I was nervous when strangers insisted, "My dog is friendly!" I knew my dog was going to attack theirs, and that I was going to be in the middle of a dog fight (3 stitches and 3 hours in the ER for me thanks to a "friendly" dog, 2 paid emergency vet visits for other dogs who ended up with punctures).


The most comforting thing anyone ever said to me came from my trainer, who had also owned a reactive dog: "Until you've owned a dog like this, you have no idea what it's like."


With years of work, Buddy led a relatively "normal" life. I could never let him loose with strange dogs; he could never relax and play with more than one dog at a time. He eventually stopped lunging and growling at strangers and would even let them approach. And during all the time he acted "normal," I still had my internal fear and trepidation running; I never stopped being on guard and watchful with him.


But, oh, the countless people who 'knew better" than I did about how to work with my dog. The guy with the pit bull, who couldn't control him on leash, and who insisted that we had to just "let the dogs work it out; my guy's a lovebug!" as the two dogs postured to do death battle. That annoying woman I would meet in the woods, who would literally bend down and put her face in Buddy's face, to try to "teach me" that you just have to "push through" the dog's fear. (Honestly, if anyone was going to end Buddy's life, it was going to be her, after her bit her face off!)


Now I have a new dog. Ten years of background with Buddy influenced the way I entered interactions between Cricket and the world. I walked her with fear and trepidation early on, not knowing how she was going to react, and wired to expect behaviors from her that I saw from Buddy. And guess what? SHE ACTED LIKE A NORMAL, HAPPYISH DOG. She's simply not wired like Buddy, and things don't ruffle her.


Fear and trepidation are normal responses to dogs who display extreme behavior - often the result of the extreme behavior, and not the cause of it. I wish people in the world would be more cautious about finger-pointing at owners who are trying their very best to deal with the cards they were dealt when they took on a challenging dog.

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Fear and trepidation are normal responses to dogs who display extreme behavior - often the result of the extreme behavior, and not the cause of it. I wish people in the world would be more cautious about finger-pointing at owners who are trying their very best to deal with the cards they were dealt when they took on a challenging dog.




I didn't start out worried and uptight and nervous when out with Molly, but your dog being a menace to others and themselves will make you that way, fast. A really reactive dog is a great way to be hyper vigilant in a hurry. I could, I suppose, have corrected her for being freaked out but I really don't know what that would accomplish. I tried some straight up b-mod before I tried meds (with the help of a trainer) and it was positive but even that we managed to change her behavior without changing her emotional state and she became MORE dangerous. Ie: I will do what you want me to do because you asked, but I'm still highly terrified/do not like this just meant she stopped giving warnings to people/dogs that she was uncomfortable, so they'd get closer and be cool with it and she'd be shut down, tense, terrified, and becoming more terrified and inclined to 'snap' when she couldn't continue this taught, trained, behavior. I have no idea what more using aversive methods versus the positive I did is supposed to have accomplished there, except making the presence of people/dogs/stuff MORE horrifying and the world more scary to her.


Things that have helped her most were:

1-) Time off even bothering to try to change it/time being just spent at home. She needed to come off the constant adrenaline rush and decompress.


2-) Medication. No amount of leadership is changing brain chemistry. No amount of *training* is going to change brain chemistry. Period.


3-) When returning to 'the world' at large, doing so with dog savvy people and dogs, rather than The General Public. No hyper greeter labs or people bending over trying to pet her or grabbing at her or even staring at her. This built her confident and let fear continue to become irrelevant, rather than "THIS IS A THREAT" being reinforced constantly.


And, yeah, yeah, training of the basic obedience sort, and having something to be engaged with (disc, tug, and that basic obedience) when we finally came out into the larger world.


What did NOT help at all? Changing her behavior without trying to change the underlying cause of it, people treating her like a 'normal' dog, out of control pet dogs, and chaotic, public, unpredictable environments, and continuing to go to group classes.


These days? She goes to agility trials/practices and is fine. She is fine with lure coursing. She's fine in most settings that involve Dog Sport People, and will in fact sleep a lot there, even amongst the hustle and bustle. Because she knows these are safe places and people and dogs will leave her alone.


However, she's not normal and I won't pretend she is. She is NEVER going to be a dog I will put in another group class, she will never be a dog who is okay in a petstore, and she will be muzzled at the vet's office (and taking an alternative entry to the vet) forever. I am sure as heck never going to respond to 'can I pet her?' with 'sure!' or let her have even brief onleash meetings with unknown dogs.


Kiran? Is a happy go lucky wiggly ball of loving everyone. At around his age (he's 4 months old) Molly? Lost is so badly when she was at the vet she was sent home still heavily sedated. They were afraid to keep her. For their safety and hers. My other dogs? Some are standoffish, some are a little intolerant of rough other dogs, but they're all very different. If I was creating the situation you'd think, really, it would be present in more than 1/20 of my current dogs and maybe 1/100 of the dogs I've dealt with in my lifetime. i am highly confident in saying, LOL, no.

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My youngest dog has a lot of issues. He has epilepsy. He has OCD - he spins. And he over reacts to everything. He gets scared and just wigs out.


But he is ok as long as he is in his safe space - the backyard and the house. He is very happy there. He is very sweet with me. He is good with my other dogs. He is good with the neighbor dogs.


I just can't take him out. I can't take him in the front yard.


He just stays home. He is fine there. If he needs to go to the vet for bloodwork I give him tranquilizers. And he does ok. They can do what they need to do.


And he really doesn't like strangers.


We just make do.

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If I had been unable to get Molly to a place where she was capable of being comfortable and safe going out to do things, I would have put her to sleep. Like, seriously, those were the options 'improve enough to be able to participate in the world or be put down'. Couldn't rehome her, because it wouldn't have been safe. Couldn't leave her home because while she was 'okay' here, she quickly gets bored, destructive, and neurotic in other ways. Heavy drive to work/do thins AND fear of the world? Is unlivable and flat out cruel. Plus, honestly, she was starting to get reactive to things at home like misplaced cake and people she lived with being 'out of expected context'.


(No judgement about anyone else/their dog, but with THIS one there just wasn't a third option I would have felt safe doing, or felt like gave her any quality of life.)

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I am lucky. Joey is perfectly happy in his safe space. He gets tons of exercise playing with the other dogs and he runs up and down the fence with the neighbor's dogs. And I an home a lot so he has lots of company. He doesn't get reactive until he is outside his ok space. He is fine.

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My vets recognized it right away . Some of those behaviors are pretty common like spinning or snapping at nonexistent flies or biting at shadows.


I'm happy to say my dog and I don't struggle with any of that but like I mentioned, he is quite re-active. Like if he hears a dog bark or sees a squirrel he losses it. And guess what, we hear dogs bark and see squirrels everyday! Other dogs on our walks are no longer a problem as long as I keep some distance and he's very responsive to treats (leaving the house without treats is NOT an option). He would also be the perfect type of dog to have off leash if he weren't so reactive. He sees another dog on a leash and he'll go after them so off leash around the house is certainly not an option.


And I've had this guy since he was 8 weeks old so I do blame myself for a lot of my trial and error rearing him up. But I also tend to believe he's just one of the dogs that's not wired right in that regard. Otherwise, he's the perfect dog :D

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