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Why Is My Dog Chasing Shadows?

 
By Ameera Mills. Updated: August 21, 2018
Why Is My Dog Chasing Shadows?

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Have you noticed that your dog has recently been chasing shadows compulsively? If so, this behavior should not be ignored. At first it might seem fun or funny, but a dog that is excessively chasing shadows could be showing warning signs. Chasing shadows can occur as a result of serious stress and behavior-related problems.

For this reason, in this AnimalWised article, we will be telling you why your dog is chasing shadows. In addition, we will also be informing you on why it is a serious problem and what solutions can be taken in stopping this behavior.

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Compulsive behaviors in dogs

Compulsive behavior in dogs describes the repetitive and invariable impulse of performing a behavior. A dog that shows symptoms of obsessive behavior will perform one or more behaviors continuously. This behavior problem will also begin to interfere with their daily routine. Such behaviors will also lack both meaning and purpose, but you’re dog will choose to do them anyway. Some dogs suffering from compulsive behaviors will spend hours performing these activities, repetitively and sometimes won’t even sleep. In extreme cases, these dogs can: lose weight, suffer from exhaustion and even sometimes physically injure themselves.

These behaviors usually present themselves in excess, in forms such as:

  • Spinning around themselves.
  • Chasing the tail.
  • Throwing objects into the air.
  • Barking.
  • Chasing lights and shadows.
  • Licking their body excessively.
  • Being fixated by toys.

It is important to keep in mind that healthy dogs can also sometimes perform these behaviors, such as barking and licking. Healthy dogs however, do this as a response to: specific triggers, for a reason and not excessively.

Why Is My Dog Chasing Shadows? - Compulsive behaviors in dogs

Why do dogs chase shadows?

Chasing and pursuing shadows can be as a result of anxiety, stress or frustration. Dogs that live in small places, do not exercise enough or receive insufficient mental stimuli, are prone to suffer from compulsive behavior problems. In most cases, one will find that dogs which do not receive enough physical or mental stimuli will chase shadows as an way of playing. These dogs are often trying to keep themselves occupied, with the aim of catching the shadow. The problem however, is that, since it is a shadow, the dog will never catch it. As a result of never reaching this goal, a dog chasing its own shadow will suffer from higher levels of anxiety and frustration.

Dogs are also incredibly sensitive beings, specifically when it comes to changes within their environment. If there is a change in their home such as: moving house, a new family member or any type of abandonment, it can cause a dog to start showing strange behaviors. What can start as a simple game, if not corrected in time, can result as an excessive coping method.

If you believe that your dog might be suffering from the first signs of a behavioral problems, you should try and modify your dog’s environment. For example, close your windows so that your curtains don’t move and create moving shadows. In addition, you can hide objects in your house which reflect light, as they can heighten your dog’s anxiety. A dog that is obsessed with chasing shadows and reflections, will most often exhaust itself to the extent that it won’t be able to fall asleep normally. If however you believe that these methods are not helping your specific situation, we recommend consulting a canine behavioral specialist.

It is also important to know that there are some dog breeds that are predisposed to such behavioral problems, such as shepherd dogs. The instinct of these dogs force them to feel the need to ‘‘gather’’ shadows, as they would’ve with a herd. Many of these breeds require activities such as agility sports in order to stimulate and tire out these active instincts. Walking and making sure that these breeds are properly exercised, will improve any presence of anxiety or stress.

In a situation of compulsive or excessive behavior, you must not scold your dog. Such punishment will prove to be counter-productive to a dog’s well-being and mental stability.

My dog is scared of shadows

Reactions of are governed by the fight or flight instinct in one’s brain. An animal that is afraid of shadows could be suffering from past traumas or experiences, has a lack of socialization or is inherently/genetically scared.

When dogs are scared of shadows, it is generally due to a little socialization, or a complete lack of it. Puppies, for example, experience "periods of fear". These periods only last a month or two, but these puppies can experience more than one at a time. If this period of fear is taking place, it is important not to force your puppy into doing anything that obviously makes it uncomfortable. You must always remain calm and confident, allowing your puppy to solve the situation themselves.

For a dog to correctly overcome such periods, it is essential to expose them to different stimuli during their sensitive period. This period highlights the period of time where the animal is the most receptive, and require socialization. If you are experiencing a situation where your adult dog might not have been correctly socialized, or is very fearful, we recommend working with a professional specialized in behavior modification.

Why Is My Dog Chasing Shadows? - My dog is scared of shadows

How to stop a dog from chasing shadows

In this section, we give you some tips on how to help your dog to stop chasing shadows:

  • Reinforce your dog in safe and controlled environments: avoiding stimulation can help solve the problem,as your dog will be able to rest their senses. Therefore, spend more time in dimly lit rooms, playing calm music and using positive reinforcement.
  • Dark curtains: using dark curtains in rooms where the dog spends more time can help to avoid shadows in their surrounding environment.
  • Hide reflective objects: until you have the problem under control, hiding any reflective objects will reduce the amount of shadows in your home, which will reduce your dog’s stress and anxiety.
  • Distract your dog: When you see shadows appear, try to distract your dog with a new toy or something that catches your pet’s attention.
  • Routine and daily exercise: increases the amount of exercise that your dog does daily. It is really important that your dog follows a daily exercise routine. A minimum of three hours spread over two or three times a day is a recommended dosage.

If you cannot distract your dog from chasing shadows, or if none of these tips seem to be working, we advise you to consult a specialist in ethology. A professional will be able to assess the severity of the case, conduct behavioral modification sessions and start, if necessary, pharmacological treatment.

Why Is My Dog Chasing Shadows? - How to stop a dog from chasing shadows

If you want to read similar articles to Why Is My Dog Chasing Shadows?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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