It’s a situation common among dog owners all over the world: you sit on the floor, sorting your laundry only to realize you’ve got a couple of socks missing their partners. You look around for the most likely culprit, and she’s right there, tongue out with that wacky smile.
Where you once felt frustrated, you now feel resigned. You have given up, knowing that the fate of many a dog owner is to live through life with widowed socks.
But is that true? Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible to be a fur parent with complete pairs of stocks and (gasp) unchewed belongings. But to achieve that, we must first understand: what is it about our dirty, smelly socks that dogs just can’t seem to get enough of?
Reasons Why Your Dog Keeps Hoarding Your Socks
Taking your socks can be a symptom of anything from boredom to separation anxiety to nutritional imbalance. Which one could it be for your dog?
Your dog is bored.
Up until a couple of decades ago, dogs were primarily bred to accomplish tasks that humans needed help with. Whether it’s herding cattle, hunting game, killing pests, or keeping intruders out, dogs have been designed to do work. And even if you got a dog for cuddles and companionship, the energetic drive that has been passed on from her ancestors is still very much there.
If your dog has no outlet for that energy, she tends to take it out on your stuff. A telltale sign of this is if she chews not only your socks, but your shoes, your rug, your sofa, and anything else she can get a hold of. Socks may be destroyed more often just because they’re easy prey, laying on the ground or easily reachable from drawers and half-open laundry baskets.
What you can do
If you think your dog is chewing up your socks because she’s bored, the best way to stop it from happening again is to spend that excess energy.
Add another fifteen minutes to your walk, or convert a part of that walk into a jog. Make sure to give her play time every day. Buy her some mental stimulation toys to keep her busy while you’re out.
Whatever it is, channel your dog’s sock-chewing energy to a less destructive and more productive pursuit.
Your puppy is teething.
If your dog is between 3-5 months old and has developed the bad habit of chewing up your socks, it’s probably because she is teething. The good news: it’s just a phase. The bad news: it’s unavoidable.
This time in a dog’s life is when her baby teeth fall out and her adult set erupts. From 24 tiny teeth, there are suddenly 48 coming out. You may find it hard to imagine how painful it was, but if you were able to unlock your memories as a baby, you’d remember. That’s right, human babies undergo teething too.
What You Can Do
Because this phase cannot be avoided, your puppy will find always find some way of relieving the pain. It’s her way of soothing herself, fo let her to do it. But if you want to save your socks (and everything else in your house), you’d’ best buy a teething toy or two.
Teething toys are usually made of firm material that makes it soothing for puppies to chew on. Some can animal-derived and therefore edible, while others can be made of durable plastic. It’s good to buy toys and treat specially made for teething puppies as chew toys made of adult dogs may be too hard or too large.
Making use of whatever you find in your house for a teething toy may be cheaper, but it has disadvantages. The object might splinter as your puppy chews, leading to wounds. It may break into small pieces that are small enough to swallow but big enough to get stuck in the gut. These are things you can avoid when you buy a puppy teether.
Your dog misses you.
Separation anxiety isn’t just for human kids, but for fur kids too. Some dogs (especially those who have experienced trauma in their lives) need a security blanket for when their humans are out of the house. Your dog may be using your sock to keep her calm.
This explains why your dog would much rather have your just-got-back-from-the-gym socks versus your just-got-back-from-the-washing-machine socks. The nastier the sock, the more it has your smell. And for your dog, there’s nothing more comforting than the sweet smell of your sweat and toil.
What you can do
If you think your dog is taking your socks because she misses you, the best way to stop it from happening again is to work on easing her separation anxiety.
Your dog might be scared when you leave for long periods of time. Getting her used to it is the key. Try going out at odd times of the day only to come back in a couple of minutes. Make sure to greet her just as excitedly as she greets you whenever you return. Gradually lengthen the time you’re away. This way, she will understand that when you leave, it’s only a matter of time till you come back and give her the love and cuddles she craves.
You may also want to give her a chew-approved security object to use when you’re away. Try wearing a raggedy t-shirt as you sleep, and leave it on her bed when you leave the next day. Rotate with a couple of shirts that you don’t mind getting chewed on. Just make sure to keep your socks out of her reach, because that might still be her preferred choice due to the stronger smell.
Giving your dog toys to play with and providing her with mental stimulation games can also ease her worries.
Dogs with extreme separation anxiety may require professional help. You can talk to a dog trainer for this issue and undergo sessions to help you and your dog deal with it better.
Your dog is suffering from pica.
Pica is a condition wherein a dog eats non-food items. Anything that she can reach and that fits in her mouth while not just chewed up, but swallowed.
As you can imagine, this can easily land you an emergency trip to the vet. Your dog might have ingested something poisonous, something sharp and rough, or something too big to pass through to the other end.
Pica may be a symptom of underlying psychological issues or medical issues.
Psychological issues involve boredom and separation anxiety. Because this involves ingesting the item, it poses a real threat to your dog’s life. Aside from exercising and training your dog, you may want to ask your veterinarian for herbal remedies to help calm her down. Professional dog training is also an option you can take.
Medical issues associated with pica typically involve the gastrointestinal tract. There are a lot of diseases that could be causing this symptom:
- Nutritional imbalances may be pushing your dog to find that missing vitamin or mineral elsewhere.
- Metabolic diseases, particularly those that affect the thyroid, interfere with your dog’s ability to process and use these nutrients.
- Parasites living in your dog’s gut may be stealing micronutrients from them or else hijacking your dog’s metabolism.
- If your dog is on corticosteroids that tend to depress gastrointestinal motility and function, the result could be poor digestion and absorption.
What You Can Do
The best way to know for sure if your dog has nutritional deficiencies is to visit a veterinarian. They will take a detailed history and perform diagnostic tests to be able to determine if your dog’s missing key parts of her diet and why.
If the condition is confirmed, they will most likely require a change of diet or ask you to give supplements to match the requirement. Drugs to balance out hormonal imbalances or eradicate parasitic infections causing metabolic problems may also be prescribed.
Aside from medical interventions, keeping your floor clean of anything your dog might fancy is an easy and effective way to stop her from swallowing something she shouldn’t.
Training Your Dog To Drop That Sock
If you haven’t taught your dog to drop or leave an object she is obsessing over, now would be a good time to do it. Regardless of what is causing her to take your socks, getting her to stop on command is helpful.
Aside from learning a useful new trick, training has other benefits. It also serves as a way to exercise her brain and spend quality time with her human.
- Give your dog something she likes to chew or play with, like a toy.
- Offer her a high-value treat.
- As she lets go of the toy to take the treat, give your command. You could use “drop it” or any version of that in any language you prefer, as long as you use the same command consistently and in the same tone of voice.
- Do this multiple times.
- As your dog gets the hang of it, give the command first, watch her drop the toy, and then give her the treat.
- Practice this 2-3 times for 5 minutes each.
- Once your dog gets the hang of it, use the trick every when you walk outside, when you’re hanging at the house, and when she has your dirty sock in her mouth.
What To Do If Your Dog Eats A Sock
But let’s be real. It’s hard to enough to keep track of where you left your car keys, what more socks? There will be times when you inadvertently leave one lying on the floor, just begging to be chewed on. And if your dog goes one step further and eats it, what happens next?
Socks aren’t made to be ingested. As such the body has no way to break that big, thick piece of cloth down. If you’re lucky, the only way you’ll find out is when you see your sock right in there with your dog’s poop, or as you watch her retching out a saliva-drenched sock.
What To Do If You Saw Your Dog Eat A Sock
If you caught your dog gobbling down your sock red-handed, it’s best to go to the vet immediately. They will most likely induce vomiting using emetic drugs. If the sock gets stuck on its way out, they have the expertise to make it move along.
There are ways to induce vomiting at home, but this should only be attempted in emergency situations wherein you cannot get the clinic in time. Even then, it’s best to talk to the vet on the phone for dosage and administration instructions. Stay on the phone so you know what to do to troubleshoot.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Showing Signs of Eating A Sock
The worst-case scenario is if you have no idea your dog swallowed your sock, and you only start to notice hours or even days later when symptoms appear. Your dog may present with vomiting, bloody poop, appear lethargic and in pain, and exhibit poor appetite.
This is because the sock has made its way deeper into the gastrointestinal tract, where it got stuck in the intestines. The passage is much narrower here, and a bunched up sock could serve as a serious obstruction.
If your dog has a history of eating things she shouldn’t and she starts acting this way, immediately bring her to the vet. If the diagnosis is confirmed, surgery is usually the only option.
Studies and clinical experience show that acting quickly when you see symptoms is the best way to increase the chance of survival and minimize costs. If you suspect your dog has eaten a sock, it’s best to overreact and be safe, rather than wait until it’s too late and be sorry.
Your dog’s obsession with socks could be a symptom of a psychological or medical condition. The sock fulfills a need, and your job as a fur parent is to fulfill that need with something more appropriate.
Sock chewing is at best inconvenient for you, and at worst it’s life-threatening to your dog. This is why intervention is important. It’s not just enough to address the root cause. You should also find a way to keep those temptingly chewable socks out of your dog’s reach.
Whether it’s keeping your dog busy, giving your puppy a teether, figuring out what’s causing her pica, or helping soothe her anxiety, know that sock chewing and eating behavior need not be permanent. With a little effort on your part, you can one day have a drawer filled with unchewed pairs of socks.