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Mia Carter
Mia Carter, Animal Expert
Category: Dog
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Experience:  Specializing in the training and care of ill pets and special needs animals! Mom of 22 pets!
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My dog wants to play all the time. He is 6 years 9 ...

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My dog wants to play all the time. He is 6 years 9 months old. He is a toy poodle. As soon as I get home from work he runs to get one of his toys. He doesn''t even take too much time to greet me first. He has always been like this but recently he had a seizure which his vet says she believes is epilepsy. She tried to treat him with pheno-barbitol but it made him so hyper and very jumpy. She said this wasn''t good so he is now on potassium bromide. Anyhow, I feel his obsessive playfulness has gotten worse since he began having seizures. Without exaggeration he can play for hours just retrieving a toy. Tonight I took him for an hour walk and when he returned he still wanted me to throw his toy all night! This is not unusual behavior for him. He has always been this way but is just a little more consistent with it since the seizure. Do you think he may have OCD or an anxiety disorder? If so, what should I mention to my Vet about this?
Submitted: 8 years ago via PetPlace.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Mia Carter replied 8 years ago.
Hello there!

That's a very interesting case you have there!

I don't think you should be overly concerned, although I do think there are a few measures you should take to ensure that YOU maintain control in the relationship. I can see how he could potentially control you with his toy infatuation, and we don't want that to occur, so I think you should be reinforcing your position as alpha because if you say that playtime is over, it's over, no more, done. And at that time, he should start playing by himself if he's still in the mood to play.

So I can give you some tips on maintaining control as alpha in a little bit.

In terms of whether this is an obsession or a symptom of OCD, I don't think that's the case, but I would say that he's going to be more prone than other dogs to developing such conditions in the future. This is the case because anxiety usually occurs for one of two reasons: poor mental health due to an excess of unexpended energy OR poor self-confidence with a lack of coping skills. So we just need to keep him in check and you can do that by playing with him when YOU want to play, but when you don't, he's on his own and he needs to understand that.

Play, in wild dogs, serves a few functions. It serves to build relationships with other dogs. It also serves as "practice" for hunting. And it serves as a way to expend energy. So I think in your case, it's a combination. Play for your boy is a relationship builder - he likes the interaction with you. It also sounds like he has a LOT of energy, and so he's expending some of that (energy is one of those things where it's going to come out whether you like it or not. It's better that it comes out in the form of a positive, acceptable behavior, because otherwise, it can come out in the form of aggression, destructiveness and anxious behaviors, like barking) In the scheme of things, play is a good way to expend energy, but I think if he gets some more exercise, he will tone it down a bit. A walk, for a high-energy dog, is not sufficient. Your dog sounds like the type who needs a run or a jog in order to drain his excess energy. If you're not a runner or jogger, there's other alternatives too. There is a giant spring mechanism that can be affixed to your bike. Or you can get a pair of rollerblades. Fetch is a good exercise too, but it's not as draining as a run is since the running is intermittent, so I still recommend at least one long daily run if you can swing it. Exercise will expend some of the energy that's manifesting itself as play. And it will help keep him in a healthy state of mind. Because a dog who has lots of pent up energy is prone to anxiety and destructive behaviors - I think more exercise is going to be your key.

In terms of anxiety triggering the seizure, I don't think this is going to be the case. Mental state can have an effect on epileptic dogs, but it's usually a very, very intense emotion. And to me, it sounds like your dog has excess energy and a very strong play drive, but I don't think he's at the point that would contribute to epilepsy. One thing that does come to mind is whether a hormonal imbalance could be triggering both the seizures and some of his extreme playfulness. Hormones can have a very dramatic effect in terms of behavior and I wonder what, if any, role it may have here. It's something to explore a bit further with your vet, as he can look at his hormone levels, lab work and other diagnostic tests.

Back to the alpha-ism.....we're also going to need to re-establish you as the alpha in this relationship. If we want him to respect you as the leader, we need you to act the part. So you need to speak firmly and confidently and when you issue a command, it should be distinctly a command, not a question or statement. KNOW that you are bigger, smarter, more stubborn and in charge! Your body language should exude confidence and control - stand tall, use a firm voice, make eye contact. And most importantly, maintain control at all times - he can't ever walk away from a situation thinking, "well, I just won that one!" You're in control. Act like it and you'll see it makes a big difference.

Here's a few good web pages that explain about alpha-ism, and they include information on how to reinforce your position as alpha. Please note on one of the links I provide, it talks about holding your dog's scruff, making eye contact and shaking your dog when he snaps at you - please DON'T do that. It is just as effective and a much safer method for you to use eye contact and a firm, confident voice. Never shake your dog, as it can injure him. Normally, I wouldn't even put up a link that had that sort of info, but it has otherwise valuable information that I think will be helpful to you.

I hope this helps give you some direction with your playful boy! Just "reply" if you have any additional questions, okay?

****Please ACCEPT if my answer was helpful!****

-Mia Carter
Pet Expert

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Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Your information makes alot of sense to me, thank you. XXXXX just wanted to mention that my dog has a tendency to hurt his back every so often. He'll be fine one minute and then all of a sudden he won't eat or play. He just stands still and shivers and sometimes even vomits from the pain. My vet has never X-Rayed him because she said that it is probably a spasm that won't show up on an X-Ray and MRI's are very expensive. So she prescribed an anti-inflammatory which usually works for him. First she gave him pain killers which didn't work too well for him after a while. He's had this problem for about three years. Anyway, at first he only had the problem about 4 times a year and now since it happens more frequently she prescribed Dex, an anti-inflammatory, I believe.
So although I think your advice sounds quite good, do you think running would be okay for him with the two health issues of his back and the seizures he's had? I will definately mention this to his vet but I'd like your input as well.
Expert:  Mia Carter replied 8 years ago.
Hello there!

I'm glad that you mentioned that. I would definitely consult your vet, as she will be familiar with his exact condition. But, providing you use proper techniques for running, you should be just fine.

Keep this term in mind: gradual. Everything needs to be gradual. You have to remember that the muscles are most prone to damage when exercise begins or stops suddenly. So a ten minute warm up and warm down is necessary to get him moving and warm. The warm up should be a bit longer when it's cold as you tend to be stiffer then. It's also key to keep him moving at a steady and reasonable pace. Changing speeds quickly can also cause damage - you want to do everything gradually. I would also be cognizant of where he feels comfortable in terms of a speed - a nice jog is sufficient - running at top speed will just make him tire quicker and in the end, he won't burn as much energy. Also, when you implement this new exercise regime, you should do that gradually too. On your walk, sandwich a brief jog in between two periods of walk. Say you're out for 55 minutes. Start with 25 min. walking, five minutes jogging, then 25 min. walking. Gradually, increase the amount of jogging time and cut back on the walking. This will slowly build his endurance.

Following a jog, applying heat should help him from being sore and developing any muscular problems. This can also work for when he's experiencing the spasms you described. A heating pad will probably be most effective for his case, as the temp can be adjusted very easily. But there's also microwavable heat packs out there. Heat relaxes the muscles and helps stop cramping and spasms.

Massage after a jog or when he's experiencing spasms may also be helpful. There's many books on massage in your bookstore's pet section (with the homeopathic books, usually). And these websites can give you a few hints on where to begin:

In addition, if you have access to a pool or lake, swimming may be a good alternative, at least during parts of the year. Swimming provides a low-impact, full body workout that many dogs enjoy immensely, so that's something to consider as well.

I don't think jogging or running should be impeded by the epilepsy. Certainly you will need to keep an eye on him in case there's a problem. So maybe bicycling along isn't such a good idea because the leash mount affixes to the rear portion of the bike, so he may be out of your direct field of vision. The mount I have goes on the back portion, but I'm sure there's something out there that can be affixed to the middle of the bike frame (you can't use the front due to the movement of the front wheel).

I wish you luck with your boy! Let me know if there's anything else I can do to assist you!

****Please ACCEPT if my answer was helpful!****

-Mia Carter
Pet Expert

**As experts, we receive no compensation for our time and efforts unless you "accept!"**
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