DEAR DIDI: My husband comes home every night around 5:30 p.m. Our German Shepherd sees him pull up and starts barking furiously at the front window and not in a “happy to see daddy” way. It makes my husband very angry. The minute the front door opens all is right with the world again. Why doesn’t our dog recognize his daddy? -Perplexed in Ripon
DEAR PERPLEXED: I hear this complaint frequently! I think it is because us humans rely so much on our eyesight as our dominant sense that we forget other animals are not the same. Dogs actually have fairly poor eyesight in many ways. There are two types of cells that make up our eyes, rods and cones. The cone cells are responsible for seeing color and the rod cells are responsible for black and white images. Rods also help us perceive movement. Dogs have half as many cones as a human but twice as many rods.
Our dogs are also somewhat myopic, or nearsighted. They need glasses to see distance with the clarity we do. A dog’s sense of hearing and smell are their dominant senses. I am sure your German Shepherd knows the sounds of your husband’s car compared to all the neighbor’s vehicles. He clues in the minute it drives up. Unless your husband has a unique shape or walks in a different manner your dog probably doesn’t know it is him.
Once the door opens, smell instantly brings recognition, and I am sure, happiness!
I highly recommend you go to dog-vision.com for a free image processing app that will allow you to convert any photo on your phone/computer to the way a dog would see it. It is a real eye opener and will help you understand your canine much better!
DEAR DIDI: What is OCD in dogs? I thought OCD means someone who wants everything to be perfect. -13-year-old boy in Stockton
DEAR 13-YEAR-OLD: This is an excellent question! It is a disorder that happens more often than people may realize and it comes in many different forms and levels of severity. Humans have a lot of labels that we throw out to describe others of our species. OCD has long been loosely used to describe people that like things to be neat, organized, or “perfect.” However, sometimes those desires become extreme and their life is overwhelmed with constant thoughts of organizing and washing even if things are already clean.
OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In dogs it is called CCD, Canine Compulsive Disorder. It usually develops around a year old and may seem funny or cute at first. It is believed that a stressful event in the dog’s life causes anxiety which releases certain brain chemicals. In an attempt to feel better, the dog performs an act that is self-satisfying. Those brain chemicals reduce and the action becomes even more rewarding because it felt so good. The dog seeks to repeat the action and it can quickly become a “habit” of sorts.
The most common CCD behaviors we see are spinning, flank sucking, pica (the urge to eat nonfood items like rocks), snapping at flies (invisible ones), shadow or light chasing, tail chasing or just staring off into space. CCD behaviors usually get worse with age and can progress to life threatening status. The dog’s quality of life is not ideal when they suffer from any level of CCD. Diagnosing it early on is crucial. A qualified Behaviorist or Veterinarian should be consulted right away so that steps can be taken to interrupt the cycle and hopefully keep it from progressing to a disabling situation.
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Didi’s Dogs. To ask your dog behavior question, email www.CaliforniaCanineUnleashed.com.