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I have a two year old dog who came from an animal shelter, and is a corgi/chihuahua/mix. He has always been a strange and playful dog, and always enjoyed doing his own weird tricks. However, just recently, I and everyone in my family, have taken interest in something I’ve learnt to be fly-biting. He has done it since he was a puppy, along with other compulsive behaviors like chewing on his nails and obsessively licking himself. I told my vet about him chewing on his nails, and he said it was not an issue. He just had a checkup a few months ago, and he was cleared as a perfectly healthy dog. I can’t quite figure out what fly-biting syndrome is, and how worried I should be about it. He isn’t aggressive when it happens, and just seems like a slightly more paranoid version of himself. He actually does go crazy when there are actual flies around him, and even loses it if I play a fly sound off of YouTube. I’ve always just thought it was his anxiety, but now I’m worried. What should I do?
 

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Speaking very generally...

Compulsive behaviors are not always detrimental to the dog. But if your dog's licking and chewing are causing sores or infections on his body, it is an issue. Similarly, fly biting (or tail chasing, or spinning, etc.) is not inherently bad. Basically 1. if it is hurting the dog or affecting his health and 2. if it interferes with general lifestyle and well-being, you should find ways to reduce or redirect the behavior.

Increasing exercise and especially increasing daily enrichment can help tire a dog out, and teach him to occupy his attention with appropriate behaviors. An easy way to increase enrichment is to provide more foraging opportunities (use kibble hunting games, snuffle mats, and kibble dispensing toys). Things like a lick mat can give him an appropriate outlet to lick. Providing a variety/rotation of high value chews can give him an appropriate outlet to chew. And as a last resort, you can have an inflatable donut/cone to prevent him from reaching certain areas of his body. I say "last resort" because it isn't necessarily fair to the dog to simply prevent behavior while not reducing the urge to perform it (ex. "I want to scratch this itch but this cone won't let me! ARGHH!")

Not that this matters, but finding more about your dog's history can at least help you determine where these behaviors are coming from. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for dogs to develop some compulsive behaviors when they are stuck in a kennel too long, or if they were very lacking in enrichment/activity in said kennel, or in a previous home. Genetics plays some role for sure. The severity of these behaviors also varies. For example, I know some dogs who spin when they are stressed. They don't do it obsessively, but it still comes out in spontaneously during stressful situations (and not all stress is bad stress). Then, I know some dogs who will lick their paws raw. Some dogs also need medication to help with their general anxiety so that these behaviors decrease.

But at the end of the day, your dog is your dog. So it is worth continuing to communicate with your vet, and perhaps a behaviorists as well. Best of luck!

ETA: As an added note, when you say your dog was cleared as perfectly healthy... Do you mean through a general wellness exam or after looking at bloodwork? I am not implying there is anything wrong with your dog. I do think that it is a reach for a vet to 'clear a dog as perfectly healthy' IF there are clearly some nuances in behavior, and if they did not look INSIDE the dog. Many problems don't show up in a dog that just LOOKS healthy.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Speaking very generally...

Compulsive behaviors are not always detrimental to the dog. But if your dog's licking and chewing are causing sores or infections on his body, it is an issue. Similarly, fly biting (or tail chasing, or spinning, etc.) is not inherently bad. Basically 1. if it is hurting the dog or affecting his health and 2. if it interferes with general lifestyle and well-being, you should find ways to reduce or redirect the behavior.

Increasing exercise and especially increasing daily enrichment can help tire a dog out, and teach him to occupy his attention with appropriate behaviors. An easy way to increase enrichment is to provide more foraging opportunities (use kibble hunting games, snuffle mats, and kibble dispensing toys). Things like a lick mat can give him an appropriate outlet to lick. Providing a variety/rotation of high value chews can give him an appropriate outlet to chew. And as a last resort, you can have an inflatable donut/cone to prevent him from reaching certain areas of his body. I say "last resort" because it isn't necessarily fair to the dog to simply prevent behavior while not reducing the urge to perform it (ex. "I want to scratch this itch but this cone won't let me! ARGHH!")

Not that this matters, but finding more about your dog's history can at least help you determine where these behaviors are coming from. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for dogs to develop some compulsive behaviors when they are stuck in a kennel too long, or if they were very lacking in enrichment/activity in said kennel, or in a previous home. Genetics plays some role for sure. The severity of these behaviors also varies. For example, I know some dogs who spin when they are stressed. They don't do it obsessively, but it still comes out in spontaneously during stressful situations (and not all stress is bad stress). Then, I know some dogs who will lick their paws raw. Some dogs also need medication to help with their general anxiety so that these behaviors decrease.

But at the end of the day, your dog is your dog. So it is worth continuing to communicate with your vet, and perhaps a behaviorists as well. Best of luck!

ETA: As an added note, when you say your dog was cleared as perfectly healthy... Do you mean through a general wellness exam or after looking at bloodwork? I am not implying there is anything wrong with your dog. I do think that it is a reach for a vet to 'clear a dog as perfectly healthy' IF there are clearly some nuances in behavior, and if they did not look INSIDE the dog. Many problems don't show up in a dog that just LOOKS healthy.
My family actually got him as a young puppy. He was abandoned in a forest on the side of the road. No one could find his mom, but he somehow managed to stay with his sister. They named him Quinn. Anyway, his anxiety comes from a dog they had before him. She would attack people until they bled, and would lash out at him as well. She actually attacked my sister while he was locked in his cage freaking out. The crazy dog eventually had to be put down. However, Quinn was not officially owned by me until he was around 7 months old. My sister gave him up to me. I got a DNA test done that showed he was chihuahua/corgi/retriever/bulldog or pit bull... he is the definition of a strange dog. Quinn is absolutely my baby, though, so I’m relieved to hear the behavior is sort of normal. He has never hurt himself from his odd behaviors, and actually keeps his nails trimmed perfectly. He does sometimes lick himself until his fur is a bit thin, but never to the point of being raw. He is an INCREDIBLY energetic dog, but we’ve been having to spend the days inside lately because it is cold and nasty out. I’ll try to find him more activities to do. As for the vet, it was a general wellness exam. I always mention to him that he bites his nails, but he always says it’s fine. I always worry, though!
 

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https://www.petmd.com/blogs/thedailyvet/dr-coates/2016/april/fly-biting-it-seizure-or-digestive-disorder-33881

Fly-biting isn't usually an obsessive behavior. It is, typically, a symptom of a partial seizure or a GI issue. Talk to your vet. It's very common in dogs with mild epilepsy, can be treated successfully - if you recognize it as a health issue. Many, many owners don't know. Most vets, however, recognize it for what it is (the GI issue is still very 'maybe', but that it's a physical problem is not).
 

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What is most likely causing these seizure symptoms? I've literally thought of a million reasons, and can't logically put blame on one...
 

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What is most likely causing these seizure symptoms? I've literally thought of a million reasons, and can't logically put blame on one...
Epilepsy doesn't have a 'cause' like an allergy. there may be triggers for some, but if it's a seizure it's just down to 'faulty brain wiring'.
 

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You're right CptJack that it can be due to those causes. I suppose I read the chewing/licking part and immediately thought compulsive...

Here's an article (with a tiny sample size) that talks about fly biting (listing causes being anxiety, compulsive, neurological, etc.): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3500118/
A more general article (short but written by a vet): http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/why-does-my-dog-snap-at-the-air

I was imaging the fly biting I've seen... Like the dog is having a great time playing and then -head flip-snap-snap-flip-snap- back to playing. It does look different in seizure cases (based on videos I've seen, never actually seen it in real life under those circumstances).
 
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