It started when Poppy was 6 months old. The light caught the gentleman’s glasses on the floor for a couple of minutes.

That was it.

The Working Cocker is now one year old. Her obsession with chasing shadows and lights plagues her life. It also affects her family.

One can imagine how frustrating it must be to chase things that she will never catch.

Biting walls

As soon as the sun sends shadow, Poppy starts biting the walls. Fired up, they open the door for her and she zooms around the garden.

Opening the glass door also triggers frantic zooming.

She calms down when they have supper. This is when sun goes down. Is it because there are fewer reflections and shadows? Is it because the active family settles down – or is it a mix of both? If she now sees a light she will look at it but not react.

Their goal is for Poppy to stop chasing shadows and lights. However, it’s unlikely to disappear from her system completely. As a built-in compulsive disorder it will could default back under stress.


They will avoid as much exposure to her triggers as they can. This is to reduce rehearsal and the ‘learned behaviour’ element.

They can interrupt wild chase outside after lights and shadows by popping on a lead briefly.

They will shut her behind another door when they open the reflective glass door.

Her collar tag creates lights. They will change it to plastic.

They were questioning the avoidance of lights and shadows. If they did, would she never learn to stop?

Deliberately exposing her seems to me like taking an alcoholic to a pub.

Chasing shadows and lights – what can they actually do?

The will reduce stress levels in general. The more aroused, the more ready she is to obsess.

At present they may grab her or throw her a plastic bottle to play with. They may throw a ball. These things fires her up as she runs round and round.

Where possible, they will now interrupt her immediately.

Anything too stimulating or repetitive could encourage obsession.

Jaw, nose and brain

They will give her lots of work using her jaw, brain and nose.

Scent work and hunting for things engages the seeking system. This in a healthy and non-obsessive way. Not sending it into overdrive like chasing shadows and lights.

Poppy never chases shadows and lights when she is carrying something in her mouth, so they will now straight away throw her a sock (carrying socks is her favourite way of calming herself!).

She also never chases shadows and lights when people aren’t about – or so they think.

They will try immediately walking out of the room (they will need a camera). Here is how Victoria Stilwell did this in one of her TV episodes. It’s unlikely she will chase shadows and lights when nobody is about.

They can scatter feed outside; she won’t chase lights and shadows while she’s hunting for food. they will also loo into scent work

Finally they can change her diet to the nutritional best they can find.

A week later: “It is a work in progress but after speaking to you we understand what we need to do which is great”
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete report. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good. Click here for help

Categories: Stories