Dogs Behaving Badly


A yard stick. A t-ball hat. Multiple socks. The outside “Welcome” mat. A 300-page book. All items that found their way to the trash can since my husband left. And all thanks to my child of the four-legged variety.

My dog is the cutest black Labrador Retriever in the whole wide world. He’s a cuddle monster who wakes me up every morning with a level of enthusiasm matched only by my spinning instructor after three cups of coffee. He somehow hasn’t quite figured out how to play catch with a tennis ball, but he sure is good at cleaning up all the morsels of food his human brother and sister manage to drop on the kitchen floor after every meal. He’s the perfect pet.

Until my husband leaves.

And then the cutest, cuddliest puppy in the whole wide world morphs into pure naughtiness matched only by that dog in the movie Marley and Me. The chewing, the jumping, the disobeying. My husband leaves, and everything we thought we had taught him disappears into the trash along with the remnants of my daughter’s Angry Bird underwear he swiped out of the laundry basket.

I expect that my children’s behavior will be a little off when mom is the only parent in the house. But even the dog seems to know we’re one man down, and if he’s ever going to get away with taking a nap on the patio table, that time is now.

It’s times like these that I have to remind myself that even short absences like my husband’s most recent 2-weeker affect everyone in the house, even the furbabies. The entire atmosphere in the house changes. Mom’s stress level multiplies, while the parental attention is cut in half. The kiddos know they have to fight for the attention that dad took with him when he left, any attention they can get.

Negative attention is still attention, a basic fact of psychology that even a dog can figure out. So while the kids are busy discovering fun and interesting ways to one-up each other to earn my attention, the dog is right there in the mix, shredding toilet paper, eating crayons and generally destroying anything that will create the messiest of messes. (And I swear he purposely eats those crayons to leave me Crayola-colored messes a few hours later in the backyard.)

But just like my human babies, my canine baby knows exactly what mommy buttons to push to get back into my good graces. And as I snuggle up in bed at night after the naughty pup morphs back into a cuddle monster, I remember that I have to give extra lovin’ to this sweet animal who doesn’t understand why his family can’t stay in the same room at the same time every minute of every day.

So I give him that extra love that is matched only by his daddy.

Do you catch your pets behaving badly when your servicemember is gone?

About the Author

Heather Sweeney
Heather Sweeney is an Associate Editor at, former Navy wife, mother of two, blogger, and avid runner. She’s the blogger formerly known as Wife on the Roller Coaster and still checks in every now and then at her blog Riding the Roller Coaster.

11 Comments on "Dogs Behaving Badly"

  1. Dogs are pack animals. He sees your husband as the Alpha Male, and figures you really don't count. Here are some tips:

    When you discipline the dog, make your voice as low as possible.
    When the dog misbehaves, put it in a crate (actually a wire cage; buy one from the vet). Make sure the crate is somewhere that nobody will interact with the dog.
    Train your kids to treat you like the Alpha Male where the dog is concerned.

  2. Cats do fine when he's gone. This time when he came back after 10 months one decided to pee on his stuff. And in the bedroom. He was not happy to once again share me at night. It took over two months before he decided that the returning man was OK. Two months and lots of treats left on my husband's stuff and him feeding the cat canned food (which I never do.)

  3. I love this photo!

  4. O yes! When our lovely dog was alive and husband was deployed, he ate a Bible ( literally ingesting the word of God), other books, food left on the counter, but my favorite was my friends wallet that had been left at the house with $100.00 dollars in it while we were out enjoying Chinese food. While there were some shreds left, I was not about to wash the parts that came out later. It was an expensive girls night out.

  5. See mine is the complete opposite. When my dad is gone my dog is an angel, but when my dad is at home everything we taught him goes right out the window. He jumps on everyone and sprints all over the house, goes into his coat pockets and bites on all his clothing. We don't know how to stop it!

  6. Dogs need a pack leader 24 hrs a day. If they don't have a human pack leader, one of the dogs will become the leader.

  7. There are no bad dogs….just bad owners who let them get away with things then complain when they misbehave.

  8. when i was reading this all i could think about is two things; being a retired AF Loadmaster and the times i was "always" gone and the wife and the three (3) dogs and a cat and two teen age daughters – and the other was – what a PERFECT subject and show for Cesar Milan!!!!!! talk about things that affect military families.
    and yes, he does do the crayon thing just for his "mommy" to show her "all the love and attention" she needs, yea right!!! NOT!

  9. My husband has not been gone on a deployment since we got our dogs. But he has a favorite dog and she thinks he is her entire world. When he went to Las Vegas for his bachelor party she laid in front of the front door for 4 whole days. I'm so worried about how it will be when gets back on a deployment schedule.

  10. Great story. Thank u for sharing. I hope your husband, your children’s Dad & your dog’s Alpha Male comes home soon!

  11. Despite all the debates over Alpha males, the point is this: dogs need structure and calm assertive leaders. Maybe your husband is the more authoritative one or maybe your dog is just responding to your stress. However you have been training your dog, just make sure to stick with it (as it seems to have been working in the past). Until you see improvement try keeping as many objects away from his reach as possible by closing the doors to kids rooms, keeping delicious books on the self.and maybe wait to buy a new welcome mat :). As far as trying to reduce your stress and maintaining calm? Easier said than done!

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