“My dog needs a job” lamented the owner of an Emma, an 8-year-old Shih Tzu. Emma had taken to obsessively gnawing at her leg, creating a persistent wound susceptible to frequent infection. Proper nutritional support and homeopathic remedies healed the wound nicely, but Emma would soon find another spot to target.
Obsessive behavior in animals is a curious thing. Once all possible physical causes are ruled out, only the mental state of animal remains. Gus, the recently deceased Central Park Zoo polar bear, became world-famous for his obsessive swimming. Animal behaviorists, at a cost of $25,000, were brought in to help shift his behavior. A playroom stocked with rubber cans, traffic cones, and coolers were set up in his enclosure. Feeding times became more challenging – Gus was given his meals frozen in ice blocks or encased in rawhide. In the end, all these changes were made to make Gus use his mind and body more. Little by little his obsessive behavior was reduced.
We can learn from Gus’ story and benefit from the knowledge learned from the animal behaviorists. Emma too needs to use her mind and her body to drain her of the restlessness energy that is driving her obsessive behavior. Exercise, games, and pet tricks can all help her channel the energy in a positive way. Emma’s owner is correct, Emma and all pets with obsessive behaviors “need a job”. Are you hiring?