E.S., Dover Plains, NY
Tags: dog Dover Plains NY
Oct 16, 2011
Is there any evidence that a dog, or any other animal, for that matter, can be psychotic?
There's a dog in our neighborhood who, when he gets loose, runs through the neighborhood barking and growling threateningly at anyone he comes across. Even more bizarre, he'll bark at homes with no one in sight (like Don Quixote jousting with windmills). Meanwhile, his owners stand out in the road trying to entice him back in the car.
This has gone on for several years. I wonder if there is a pathogenic cause, such as the rabies virus. I suspect he is mentally deranged, just as I would if a human being exhibited such behavior. What do you say?
E.S., Dover Plains, NY Oct 17, 2011
Yes, indeed, animals can become "psychotic" for various reasons. Confinement, boredom and social deprivation -- notably in caged primates in research laboratories and in other species, from elephants to tigers, in circuses and poorly run zoos -- can develop into various abnormal behaviors. These behaviors include repetitive movements, self-mutilation, aggression and depression. Crated sows on factory farms and stabled racehorses often develop obsessive chewing and other abnormal behaviors.
Genetics, environment and early experiences with human caregivers also factor in. Some dogs, in part due to poor selective breeding, are hyperactive, have poor attention and retention, or are abnormally fearful or aggressive. Poor socialization, especially being overindulged and not taught self-control (Pavlov's "internal inhibition," in part influenced by heredity) is most likely a contributing factor. The best therapy would probably be an hour a day at a local (enclosed) dog park with other dogs, plus some basic motivational training to sit, stay and come on voice command or hand signal.
E.S., Dover Plains, NY
Tags: dog Dover Plains NY
Jun 12, 2010
My question is about the psychology of dogs and, maybe more importantly, the psychology of their owners. It specifically has to do with what we might call the endlessly yapping dog. From my personal experience, it's quite common. Why do certain dog owners put their dog (usually a small breed) outside in the yard, then go inside, leaving the dog to bark outside for hours on end? As a dog owner and dog lover for years, it is my thinking that this is unnatural on the dog's part and crazy on the owner's part.
E.S., Dover Plains, NY Jun 13, 2010
I agree that constant yapping is "unnatural on the dog's part and crazy on the owner's part." Small breeds tend to be super-yappers, which is partly due to being overindulged and misunderstood. In essence, they never grow up, acting like perpetual puppies constantly seeking and receiving attention. Their yapping is reinforced/rewarded by many owners always picking them up when they bark for attention or by giving them a treat to shut them up; the dogs are training their owners.
All dogs need to be treated like dogs -- with respect and understanding of dog behavior and psychology, as per my book "Dog Body, Dog Mind." Dogs "mind" when they are understood and are treated properly.
The lunacy to which you allude -- apart from some yappy dogs' parents being hard of hearing -- is psychological deafness or auditory denial. These owners, like many parents I see with their screaming kids, become deaf (and blind) to their canine's delinquent behavior, and their total lack of consideration for their neighbors is inexcusable. Yapping dogs in the wild, like screaming children, would be quickly located and eaten by larger predators.
K.B., Dover Plains, NY
Tags: dog Dover Plains NY
Jan 16, 2010
I have a 4-year-old Maltese who has become aggressive toward many dogs the past couple of years. Most of the dogs she met as a puppy seem safe from this behavior. She appears fine when she first approaches a dog (tail wagging) and then she lunges to bite them. If they run around in a fast motion, it seems to excite her negatively, almost as if they were prey. At other times, she can be in the same room with a dog for an hour before she bites.
Also, when she plays with the dogs she does like, she''s very rough. She play-bites, but roughly. These are usually quiet, calm dogs, and her circle of friends is getting smaller. Can you help?
K.B., Dover Plains, NY Jan 17, 2010
Your Maltese has reached full maturity and wants to be alpha dog in spite of her diminutive proportions. But she is a terrier after all, and feistiness goes with the breed''s temperament. She wants to be friends and to play with other dogs, which is why she wags her tail while approaching them. But she also wants to dominate, a behavior that may be intensified by being on the leash. You must remain calm and not jerk her leash or let her feel your apprehension when meeting another dog, because your behavior may well incite her. It''s best to avoid any close proximity, but keep up off-leash play sessions with dogs she knows. Call in a dog trainer to provide advice as to when you should intervene if your dog is playing too rough. Generally, dogs of equal size and similar temperament work things out themselves. Most dogs learn that it doesn''t pay to bite too hard if they want to keep on playing. Sometimes, as with human children, play sessions need to be broken up with time-out when the participants get too excited and rough. Roughhouse play one-on-one between you and your terrier (like a tug of war with a knotted rope) could be a good discharge therapy, provided she is also trained to sit and be still.
L.H., Dover Plains, NY
Apr 17, 2004
I want to express my concern about a tick-borne disease just coming into our area that is fatal not only for animals, but humans, too. It is called Ehrlichia. A lot of people and vets are unaware of this disease and don''t know how to treat it or how deadly it can be.Unfortunately, I found out about it the hard way. On Nov. 13 of last year, I lost my precious dog Dukie (who was only 13 years young) from this disease after she was sick for only two weeks. She had Lyme disease for about three years and was always treated for it, so we never thought to look for anything more serious until that time. Her red blood cells and platelets went dangerously low, and her white blood cell count was too high. Our vet figured she was only in the first, or acute, stage of the disease. We immediately started her on treatment of doxycycline and vitamin K (to help keep her from bleeding to death due to low platelets). She died in just three days and was, it turned out, in the last deadly stage of the disease.The only was to kno
L.H., Dover Plains, NY Apr 18, 2004
Your letter raises an important public health issue that more veterinarians and physicians are on the alert for -- namely, the increasing incidence of "exotic" diseases, many of which are transmitted by ticks and other insects. In addition to Lyme disease and Ehrichiosis, here are some other tick-related conditions: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Q fever, theileriosis, babesiosis, trypanosomiasis, borreliosis, tularemia, anaplasmosis, heartwater disease, yellow fever, Colorado tick fever virus, Central European encephalitis virus, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus and tick paralysis.The more that people (and their animals) travel, the more these tick-borne diseases spread. Global warming and climate changes, coupled with pesticide resistance in ticks and pesticides killing off birds and other tick-eating/tick-controlling creatures, all call for greater vigilance and more effective methods of tick control.