What type of canine behaviours might indicate OCD in the dog?

What type of canine behaviours might indicate OCD in the dog?

OCD in dogs can come in many shapes and forms, and it is important to take them in context as well as assessing the behaviour itself. For a dog’s behaviour to be considered OCD, it needs to be obsessive (so that the dog defaults to doing it frequently or in specific situations) and compulsive, to the point that the dog may not even be aware they’re doing it, unable to stop, and hard to divert.

If you’re looking for canine OCD examples, it is important to bear this in mind, as well as trying to find out what sort of canine behaviours might indicate OCD.

With that caveat in mind, this article will provide some dog OCD examples in terms of the most common behaviours or activities that dogs may become compulsive about. Read on to learn more.

Pacing up and down

Pacing is one of the most common and evident manifestations of a potential OCD behaviour in dogs; and one that dogs will commonly do if frustrated or left alone for too long. You might see your dog pacing when you’re making their dinner or getting ready to take them for a walk and they’re being impatient, and in these specific situations the behaviour isn’t usually OCD as it is purely situational.

However, if you recognise that behaviour from such situations and your dog does it at other times repetitively and with no trigger, that might be canine OCD.

Turning in circles or spinning

Dogs will often turn around in circles many times when they’re about to lie down, to get comfortable and rearrange their bed or blanket, if they happen to be on one. But outside of such a context, if your dog frequently, obsessively and repetitively turns around and around in circles – perhaps stopping and reversing direction every now and then – this could be OCD.

Spinning, or essentially turning circles but rather faster, is another potential sign of OCD in the dog.

Chasing their tails

Often an escalation of spinning or sometimes developing in its own right, some dogs will chase their tails on occasion, but if your dog defaults to doing this regularly or in certain situations, it could be OCD.

Patrolling a set area or territory

Some dogs have natural guard dog or watchdog tendencies, and will take their responsibilities in this regard very seriously. While dogs can of course be trained to guard, some dogs have natural instincts to do this, and will patrol, guard and police as it were, the area they see as their territory. This is not always an OCD behaviour; and a level of concentration and commitment to guarding is integral to what makes good guard dogs good, as if they lost concentration or gave up and got bored, they’d be fairly useless at their jobs.

However, dogs that patrol or guard obsessively; such as never leaving a certain window and always staring and fixating on what’s on the other side of it, even when there’s no specific stimulus entertaining them, might be displaying OCD.

Dogs can display OCD in the way they patrol too; rather than doing a circuit to check things out and then settling for a bit, or responding to stimulus and investigating, a dog might repetitively patrol the same area up and down in a pattern that might go on for hours, and quickly wear a carpet threadbare or reduce grass to earth.

There is a fine line between natural guarding tendencies and OCD patrolling, and breeds that are natural guard dogs can easily cross the line if they don’t get enough stimulation; the German shepherd and the Rottweiler being good examples.

Licking or chewing at an area of skin or a paw

Self-harming behaviours in dogs can have a physical cause, such as if your dog has an allergy that makes them itchy or if they’re in pain. But things like licking or chewing an area of skin, chewing paws, or deliberately biting or pulling out their own fur are all common forms of OCD behaviours in dogs.

It can be very hard to know if the behaviour begins due to a physical issue or not, and even if it does, this can become an obsessive behaviour over time, even when the physical cause is absent. It is important to talk to your vet to determine if there is an underlying root cause.

Destroying toys or other objects

Some dogs are very hard on their toys and seem to take it as almost a point of pride to destroy anything they are given, and dogs do need to chew things and this in turn will destroy their toys over time too. However, in some cases, destroying toys or other things (like shoes or carpet) can indicate OCD behaviours, particularly if they develop over time or if your dog fixates on one thing or one type of thing.


Digging is a natural canine behaviour that many dogs exhibit, and which can be inconvenient due to both the damage it causes to your garden and the mess it can leave your dog in! Some dogs are keener to dig than others (many terrier breeds in particular) but if your dog digs every chance they get (and it is not because they’re trying to get to something they buried) cannot be diverted, or is obsessed with digging, this could be OCD.

Fly biting

Fly biting is snapping at the air or at a “fly” that is not there. This can also be indicative of a neurological disorder, and manifests in the same way if it is; so you will need to work with your vet to identify if fly biting has a health condition at its root or is a solely behavioural issue.

Barking or inappropriate vocalisations

Barking continually or fixatedly without end if left alone or even if you’re there is likely to drive you and/or your neighbours to distraction, and if there’s no cause or target for the barking, can be OCD. Non-stop crying, whining, or howling with no root cause can also be OCD in the dog.


Humping behaviour on the part of a dog never fills their owner with delight, and is more often than not an OCD behaviour if repetitive. It can also be a show of dominance or of course, amorous thoughts though!

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