We have a nine-year-old, 14-pound female dog named Bernie. We believe her parents were Bichons. We brought Bernie home when she was only four weeks old because of the desperate condition she and the rest of the litter and parents were in. Our recent concern is that Bernie has become a hoarder. On her bed in our bedroom, she keeps growing a collection of socks and other clothing items. We have also found various items such as Christmas ornaments, kitchen sponges, even measuring cups. There are no changes in her behavior or health. Is this a symptom of something more serious we should be aware of?
— Grace, N. Massapequa, New York
While the behavior is not uncommon – many dogs like to grab and hide things near their beds – this is a new behavior for nine-year-old Bernie, so I encourage you to visit your veterinarian for a check-up. While she is not showing any other symptoms, pain is not something a pet owner can usually see, and new behaviors can be related to pain.
If she is physically healthy, then this could be a behavior issue related to anxiety or a newly-developed compulsive disorder, both for which the veterinarian can recommend treatments that can help. I am inclined to think this might be the problem.
In the meantime, keep things out of her reach – socks and clothes in hampers and Christmas ornaments on shelves she can’t reach – to make sure she won’t swallow anything that could block her intestines and require surgery. She could be protective of her treasures, so put her outside before gathering up the items and putting them away. Don’t deny her comforts though. Be sure you have safe dog toys to replace these items, so she is not further stressed.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal