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My dog is obsessed with my sump pump. This has gotten so bad that she will rush down the stairs every chance she gets and sometimes just sit at the door until someone would open it. Now it’s got to the point that if she gets to go downstairs she will rush our puppy if he even looks at her.

I can’t imagine what has triggered this and how it has become so intense over the last few months. Also she will stay downstairs licking the ground around the pump on the floor until her muzzle is red.

Thinking I could use reverse psychology on her, sometimes when we leave the door open to the basement she will stay downstairs and run up and down the stairs to see if anyone in the house is planning on heading that way just so she can take off at a high speed beating anyone to return to the pump area.

She has never been aggressive with any person in the house, and even our other dogs she doesn’t bother with. I’m not sure if she thinks it’s a game or what but I really don’t know how to stop her behavior. We have even blocked the area with a large console, but she has adapted and licks the ground around the stand.

I’m desperate to figure out what is going on with her.

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This reads like a classic case of Obsessive Compulsive Behavior (OCD).

In almost all cases, this is caused by boredom. The dog is seeking any kind of fun, stimulating activity and by chance focuses on a random object, in your case the pump. It probably startet with her acting strange around the pump and you reacting to the strange behavior. Maybe you asked her what's wrong or you played with her or she perceived your behavior as play. Whatever happened, it gave her the stimulation she sought and reinforced her fixation on the pump. Over time she didn't need your reaction to reinforce her behavior, being close to the pump has become a reward on its own and her behavior continnues to self-reinforce.

The only way I know to break this cycle is to invest more time into your dog.

  • You should engage in physical activities with her to burn pent-up energy. Her obsession activates a stress reaction in her body releasing much energy. Burning this energy can calm her down.
  • Engage her in mentally challanging activities like obedience training or other games. See below for a list of activities to try.
  • Train alternate behavior. A good and easy to learn technique is the "target spot" training. You train her to touch a certain spot on command (like touching your hand with her nose) and reward her every time. When she starts fixating on the pump again, you give the "target spot" command and reward her. That breaks her mental fixation on the object and frees her mind to other thoughts than her compulsion.

For a list of games and activities for dogs, have a look at this post.

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