It’s not uncommon for dogs to chew on or even ingest socks, including other unusual items. The more smelly, the better!
There are several reasons a dog might be attracted to items that are not edible.
1) Exploration – If you have a puppy, chances they are interested in non-edible items because it’s something new, and interesting to smell and chew on. Even cleaned items will have your scent which can be very comforting to a puppy.
2) Teething – Puppies often chew on soft items in an attempt to soothe teething pain and relieve discomfort.
3) Closeness – Your socks or other items are going to have your scent, and this may make your dog feel closer to you. This is especially prevalent in dogs who struggle with separation anxiety. Chewing on a smelly sock is like wrapping themselves in a security blanket.
4) Boredom – Your dog may be looking to relieve boredom and socks can be fun to play with. Socks can be dragged around, and the texture of the fabric is soft and squishy. Think of what it feels like for us humans to chew gum.
5) Attention – If you find yourself chasing your dog after they find one of your socks, they may connect playing with socks as a way to get your attention. When they realize they’ve got your attention, it can turn into a game and become a habit for fun.
6) Resource Guarding – Some dogs may consider a sock or non-edible item as valuable or worthy as a way to “protect” it. A dog may find an inanimate item worth protecting at all costs and can demonstrate resource guarding where they begin to growl and lower their head when approached.
So, how do you get your dog to stop eating socks or other non-edible items, and what can you do about it?
If your dog is still a puppy, the good news is he or she will eventually grow out of this behavior. In the meantime, try keeping socks and other items they tend to seek out away from them if possible. Making sure your puppy has lots of toys and acceptable things to chew on to help with the boredom and soothe aching gums. Be patient and teach your dog acceptable behavior. Give them as much attention as possible and don’t forget to praise them for positive behavior, including chewing on their chew-approved toys.
Also, consider bringing your puppy to daycamp for playtime to expend that pent up puppy energy. They will also get physical, mental, and social stimulation.
An important command to teach your dog is to “drop it” or “leave it”. Practice this skill daily!
To teach your dog “drop it’ or “leave it”, let your dog chew on a toy you’re holding, one you approve of. Then, let your dog smell a treat. As soon as your dog drops the toy, give the command and reward them with a treat and praise. Keep practicing this command until your dog understands.
Socks or other non-edible items can cause an obstruction in the stomach or intestines. An obstruction can cause severe vomiting, lack of appetite, constipation, and severe vomiting. Left untreated, this could potentially be fatal. If your dog ingests an item, don’t assume he or she will be able to pass it. In the event they do, it’s best to call your veterinarian immediately to find out what you should do.