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Dog Misbehaves as Owner's Deployment Nears

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

Not only am I an Army wife, but I'm also a soldier. Needless to say, my husband and I are both very busy.

Here's the problem: My husband and I have two dogs and two cats. We love them like we would our children (we don't have any children).

I've been preparing for a deployment lately and have been working late hours. He works at the hospital on post and his shifts change around a lot. The last couple weeks, one of our dogs has been acting out by defecating and urinating all over the house in high traffic areas.

I feel like this is largely our fault because we've been so busy, but I can't figure out how to correct her behavior!

Like I said, our pets are like our children, so putting them up for adoption is not an option. Do you know anything we could do to correct the behavior?

Pet Owner With a Smelly Home

Dear Pet Owner,

It sounds like you have a lot going on right now with working late hours and preparing for deployment.

I’m a pet lover too. At times during my marriage, we had cats, dogs, guinea pigs and hamsters. You are right, we become very attached to our pets because they are a part of our family.

I know that giving your pets up for adoption is out of the question. However, I know many pet owners who did adopt a pet out to a responsible family just because the burden became too much.

According to some studies, our pets can pick our emotions and regress by acting out in different ways (e.g. voiding in the house when they are house trained). They can become aggressive or they can isolate and even become depressed.

If we think about it, this has to be a stressful time for you as you prepare for deployment. It was always tough for me whenever my husband would leave home for a week or two, let alone on a one-year deployment.

Because of this, I think your pet could be stressing out too. He/she may feel the absence of caregivers because you and your husband are both busy and working long hours. He/she may know that something is going on.

I’m not the Dog Whisperer, but I think you should consider hiring a pet sitter -- someone who can come in once or twice a day and play with your pets and take them for walks. This may decrease some of the anxiety and give your dog more opportunities to do his business outside.

Otherwise, ask yourself if there have been any changes to their diet that could be causing stomach problems. If it gets worse, you should also consider a visit to the veterinarian just to rule out any medical problems.

I know you don’t want a smelly house. There is nothing like visiting someone whose house smells like pet odor so consider getting your floors steam cleaned by a professional who specializes in getting rid of pet odors.

Take care of yourself. I will be praying for you while you are away. Keep in touch and let me know how you are doing.

Ms. Vicki

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Ask Ms. Vicki Family and Spouse Pets Deployment

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Ms. Vicki, a native of Dallas, has been the ‘Dear Abby’ for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her column has appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Ms. Vicki has retired from writing new columns for Although Ms. Vicki is no longer offering new advice on, you can still email military benefits questions to our Questions and Benefits team. Need military spouse career help? Email our Dear Career writers.