Stereotypies are abnormal behaviors characterized by persistent and repetitive actions that usually serve no purpose. This behavior can be related to a mental problem, although they generally derive from situations of serious stress, which indicate that the dog is in a situation of discomfort. That is why it normally occurs in animals that live in closed spaces, where they cannot satisfy their natural behavior, either due to lack of space, poor diet, drastic changes in the environment, or lack of physical activity.
Stereotypies are relatively easy to detect due to repeated movements. Some of the most common stereotypies are the following:
- Chasing their tail
- Walking in circles
- Incessant barking
- Specific repetitive movements
- Chasing shadows, flies, etc.
- Excessive licking of the air, nose, objects, etc.
Stereotypies can include organic causes (genetic factors, primary neurochemical alterations, neurodermatopathological alterations, among others) and non-organic causes (inappropriate experiences in early life, environmental hypo-stimulation, wake-up call, stress, anxiety).
If it is our dog that is in this situation, we must get down to work to correct this behavior as soon as possible. The vet will be the person who will help us rule out other problems (neurological, hormonal or dermatological) and confirm that we are dealing with a behavioral disorder. An ethologist can help us with the treatment, based on modifying the behavior and environment of our furry friend. The basis of any cure is to identify what is causing the stereotypie in our dog, and then proceed to:
- Eliminate the stimuli that has triggered the problem from the environment, such as noises or strident lights.
- Stimulate the dog's environment with toys and more entertainment
- Increase the socialization and physical activity of the dog.
There are other methods that can be applied in conjunction with an ethologist, such as desensitization and counter conditioning, to help the dog associate problem stimuli with good things, or the substitution response, to reinforce behaviors that are incompatible with stereotypical behavior.
Many times on the network we see videos of animals that show these behaviors, and due to ignorance they can be considered funny and can become viral. It is important to detect that this animal is suffering, and not to promote the dissemination of these videos over the internet.