Scientists Learn Why Fido Circles the Bowl

Ever wonder why your Doberman circles five times before sitting down or eating? So did the researchers at Tufts and UMass.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is characterized by time consuming, repetitive behaviors, and it affects about 2 percent of humans. You may not even be aware that your dogs actions could be governed by a similar disorder, the equally distressing canine equivalent "canine compulsive disorder," or CCD.

The corollary: You also may not care about the disease, which target certain dog breeds, especially Dobermans and Bull Terriers. But scientists at the Tufts and the University of Massachusetts were willing to spend a whopping $70,000 of their universities' general funds to learn more about the bothersome plague that's sweeping through our nation's pets -- well, 2 to 5 percent of our pets.

That the results of the study are actually pretty neat is almost beside the point. Through collaboration between Harvard University, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts, the University of Massachusetts Medical School and others, scientists discovered that the canine chromosome 7 location within the neural cadherin-2 gene, or CDH2, confers a high risk of susceptibility to the disorder.

This highly significant association is the first genetic locus identified for any animal compulsive disorder, raising the intriguing possibility that CDH2 and other proteins are involved in human compulsive behaviors, including those observed in autism.

Dogs suffering under canine compulsive disorders have issues with common behaviors such as grooming, tail chasing, blanket sucking or pacing and circling. Don't all pets have issues in those areas?

Tufts and UMass aren't alone in their dedication to strange science: Governments frequently spend money on research projects of questionable utility to mankind. Last year, scientists released a study on the physics of bumps in rugs. A few years earlier, scientists analyzed the mini tornado within a shower that causes the shower curtain to act all funny.

In 1999, a study in Perception magazine determined that with appropriate training, human observers can identify the gender of cat faces at an above-chance level. Oh, really?

Wacky research topics are nothing new, of course. In 1966, William C. Waggoner and George V. Scott of the Colgate-Palmolive Company published a monograph explaining how they had measured, with a fair degree of precision, the sound of a comb being dragged through a hank of hair.

Scientists looking for additional funding have nothing to fear, of course; just finding the chromosome's location doesn’t mean the issue is solved, does it? Someone still has to cure all those tail-chasing, bowl-circling Dobermans! And to do so, they'll need a study, and additional funding….