Dear Doctor: The dog has started acting out

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Q. I have an 8-year-old male dachshund who is usually good, but in the last 2 weeks he has been shredding everything in sight. He is also defecating on the floor, which he never did before. I work 10 hours a day, but I feed him and take him out to go to the bathroom before I leave. I also give him plenty of hugs and love before I go. Yes, he’s spoiled! But still, this behavior is not like him. I’m wondering if, since I took some time off recently, this is the problem. I love my dog more than anything else and also need him, as I am almost deaf and he hears for me. Anything you can say to help me would be greatly appreciated. I can’t drop him off at doggy day care because he doesn’t get along with other dogs.

Name withheld by request

Dear Reader,

A. It does indeed sound like you have a special bond with your dog, but we’re not so sure that he would agree about being spoiled. Ten hours is a long time for a dog to be alone without a walk. Many people assume two walks a day is enough for their pet, but a dog really needs to get out of the house three to four times a day — not just for toileting but also for some environmental enrichment that includes seeing and sniffing the neighborhood. And he needs more together time with people; dogs are extremely social animals.

We think your suspicion is probably right that taking some time off has played into your pet’s new, unsettling behavior. He might have previously been resigned to the fact that he was going to be alone and in the house all day, but once he got a taste of “the good life” with you at his side more of the time, he wasn’t able to adjust to going back to long days alone.

Have you thought about hiring a dog sitter to come in once a day and take him out — or perhaps asking a neighbor to do it as a favor? That would give him what he needs without subjecting him to the anxiety of being around other dogs in day care.

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