The dictionary defines neurosis, also called psychoneurosis, as:
?a functional disorder in which feelings of anxiety, obsessive thoughts, compulsive acts, and physical complaints without objective evidence of disease dominate the personality. It can also refer to a relatively mild personality disorder typified by excessive anxiety or indecision and a degree of social or interpersonal maladjustment.
Of course, while that definition applies to humans, it would be equally true for dogs, but the symptoms might not be as easy to recognize. I can?t be sure if a dog has obsessive thoughts, and I?ve never heard a dog voice any physical complaints, but I have known and owned dogs that exhibit anxious behavior, compulsive behavior, indecision, and social maladjustment with people and other dogs. Are they neurotic? Without benefit of having the dog lie on the psychiatrist?s couch to submit to counseling, veterinarians must rely upon physical tests and observations of the dog?s behavior.
If a dog is physically fit, without disease or injury, consistent behavior as described above would necessarily indicate neurosis. Some typically neurotic behaviors observed in dogs are listed in the following:
? Hyperkinetic. Salivates excessively. Has rapid pulse and breathing.
? Responds defensively when exposed to new objects, sounds, touches, movements, or odors.
? Shows anxiety by responding unnecessarily to stimuli that the dog knows is not rewarding and is harmless.
? Does not exhibit normal conditioned reflexes, voluntary or involuntary.
? Exhibits ritualized obsessive-compulsive behavior with no apparent objective.
A veterinarian can conduct simple tests of blood and urine to determine the presence of any chemical imbalances. Such imbalances, coupled with certain behavioral symptoms could support a diagnosis of neurosis. Of course this is all quite scientific, and at best, still results in an educated guess. For practical purposes, however, a dog can be considered neurotic if he exhibits symptoms of a functional nervous disorder as well as abnormal maladaptive behavior.
The chemical imbalances can be treated with appropriate medications. The anxiety can also be ameliorated with drugs. Major improvements to the dog?s quality of life, however, might be better developed with environmental changes in the dog?s daily routine.
? Make every effort to properly socialize the dog with other humans and other dogs. Trips to a local dog park or walking an urban trail with other dog walkers can be a great tool for socialization.
? Crate the dog when you are away for a time. Many dogs become anxious when home alone, and feel secure and comfortable in a familiar crate with water and a few of their favorite toys.
? Be sure that all training involves gentle instruction with positive reinforcement rather than punishment.
Dogs that have no physical problems that would cause behaviors mimicking neuroses, may well suffer from some form of neurosis. Dog with neuroses seek affection, security, and companionship as do all other dogs; however, it takes a little more concerted effort to provide them with those comforts.
With care and training directed toward reconditioning the dog to overcome his neurotic fears and compulsions, both you and your dog can enjoy a long, close, and happy relationship.
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