Bichon Keeps Scratching Neck… Is it Physical or Behavioral?

I have appreciated your advice in both your book and your

My male Bichon is a very good dog, gentle yet playful, minds
well, and treats me as the pack leader. He comes when I call,
goes in his crate at night with only one “kennel up” command
and is a general all around good dog.

One problem that I have been unable to break him of is scratching
his neck area to the point that it bleeds. He knows that he shouldn’t
do this and quits immediately when I say something to him. I have
taken him to the vet on three separate occasions.

He has received an antihistamine shot, been treated with Cortaid and
anti-itch spray, had flee treatment, bathed with hypo allergenic
shampoo and conditioner, been given a special diet, and none of this
made any difference. The last visit to the vet he prescribed a mild
tranquilizer coupled with hormone treatment. He quit scratching almost
immediately but he was somewhat lethargic. I cut out the hormone
treatment and cut his tranquilizer in half, under advisement of the vet.
He now scratches only moderately but I am hesitant to increase his
tranquilizer dosage back up to where it was. Also, I don’t see any end
to this form of treatment. As a trainer I wondered if you had ever
encountered this before and whether you had any recommendations I
might try other than the tranquilizer. In my opinion this just masks the
problem and does not fix it. I would appreciate any suggestions you
might have.


[Adam responds:] “No, this is most likely a physical problem not a
behavioral one.”

“You might try finding another vet to get a second opinion and see
another approach to it. My question would be: Why is he scratching?
It’s not the collar, is it?”

[Gordon replies:] Since he started scratching (about 3 months ago) he
has not worn a collar. One vet shaved his neck area and it shows no sign
of any irritation. I believe it to be something psychological and the vet (I
have seen two) tends to agree with me; ergo, the tranquilizer. In any
event I do appreciate you responding.

[Adam:] You might look into anti-anxiety drugs, if you feel this is the
case. Have your veterinarian call around and find out. Prozac-type drugs
will probably work better than just tranquilizing the dog.