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Self-Mutilation and OCDs in Dogs

I have an 11 yr old spayed female Doberman who chews her leg......till it bleeds the only thing we have found that works is putting on an E-collar and I feel this is cruel all the time.......We try to watch her during the day and use the collar at night or when we are away from her.....Any ideas........? If we put any meds on it she licks more. Would appreciate any help you can give me.......
Sadie Sue's Momma

Sounds like she has OCD and this type of disorder is very common in Doberman Pinchers. It's called "Flank Sucking".

"Flank sucking behavior in dogs is almost exclusive to Dobermans. It is part of a category of sucking and licking behaviors that are known as grooming stereotypes. Stereotypes are highly repetitive, ritualized, with-function or functionless acts that animals perform periodically or continually. Stereotypes can differ in degree of expression from periodic and seemingly benign, occupying time and providing self-reward to the animal and going to the extreme of uncontrollable obsessive-compulsive expression with self-mutilation and interfering with the normal function of the animal."

If she were not a Doberman (just in case anyone reading this has problems with self mutilation) I would recommend talking to the vet. Sometimes obsessive chewing and grooming can be caused by health problems and once the health problem is fixed it goes away. A common cause is allergies. Sometimes it can just be an obsessive behavior (as with Dobermans). Sometimes it could have originally been caused by a health problem but then became a bad habit and turned into an obsessive behavior.

I had a Dobie so I know your pain! But it can be overcome. They have anxiety medications for dogs much like "Prozac" for humans. Those are only recommended as a last resort (and a quick perusing of Doberman information shows me that a lot of them seem to be on it). Behavior modification normally works. It's very hard for a Dobie to overcome this because it's something that's born in them but with a little work she'll at least get a little better. A little licking isn't that bad. It's when they lick themselves to the point that they're bleeding that you need to get help (as in your case).

In Dobies and in other dogs, most self-mutilation is brought on by nervousness or boredom. Dobies may be genetically predisposed but they normally only do it when they're bored. No matter what breed, you need to find the source of the problem (I say this for everything it seems but it's true). Is she doing it for attention? Does she do it while you're gone because of separation anxiety? Does she it because she's just bored and has nothing else to do? It could be, in your case, you can't find the source.

If you can, you need to figure what you can do to ease her stress. Take her for more walks, give her more toys, get her into a training program. Make sure she has enough to keep her mind occupied. Obedience training often helps. It gives the dog a "job" to do. A dog who is occupied will have less reason to self-mutilate.

Don't reward her by giving her more attention when you catch her chewing. Tell her "NO" or make a loud sound (there are devices on the market that will do this or you can whistle or make some other noise) and get her to stop. Once she has stopped for a while and is no longer chewing THEN you can play with her or pet her or just tell her she's good. Just make sure she knows the chewing behavior is not what she's being rewarded for.

If this doesn't help, call your vet (and if your vet has never heard of Doberman flank sucking, find someone who has) and sit down with him and talk about options. He might have a suggestion I didn't think of. He may recommend you to a behaviorist. He may even suggest prescribing her some medication.

But, like I said, it's very common in Dobermans so you're not alone and you're not doing anything wrong. Some dogs just happen to get bad genes! Dobermans are worth it though. My Dobie was the most wonderful, most loving dog ever. He deserved a little extra care!

Here are some more articles which might help you out:
Dog Anxieties | Treating Separation Anxiety | OCDs In Dogs

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