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Why Does My Dog Steal My Shoes? 6 Reasons & How to Stop It

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By Nicole Cosgrove

jack russel terrier sniffing shoes

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

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If you’ve discovered that the cute little puppy you brought home has turned into a shoe thief, you may be wondering why! Maybe your pooch has ruined some of your shoes or perhaps you’re finding it hard to track your shoes down when you need to put them on.

Maybe you’ve had to chase your dog down several times while shouting for him to drop your shoes. Even though this may have been funny at one time, the chances are that you’re not laughing anymore and want to put an end to this behavior.

Below are some of the reasons why dogs steal shoes, along with some solutions so you can stop your dog from taking off with your footwear.

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The 6 Reasons Your Dog Steals Your Shoes

1. He Wants Your Attention

One reason dogs steal shoes is for attention. If you think about it, your dog probably loves the attention he gets from you when he grabs a shoe and runs away. A dog can steal shoes or other items like socks and gloves if he feels like his owner has been ignoring him. Maybe you’ve been busier than normal and haven’t given your dog as much attention as he’s used to.

Dogs are smart animals that know how to get their owners’ attention. Stealing something important to you like your shoes is a sure-fire way for your dog to get your attention which just goes to show how smart your little friend is!

How to Remedy the Behavior

If you suspect that your dog is stealing your shoes to get your attention, you’ve probably reacted strongly when he took your shoes the first time. This means your dog has learned that taking your shoes is a great way to get some attention.

Try giving your dog more attention throughout the day. Even if you’re busy, take a few minutes now and then to talk to your dog, pet him, and play.

Next time your dog takes your shoe, try to ignore the behavior (providing first that your dog will not destroy your shoe or is not at risk of ingesting it. If the dog steals the shoes looking for attention, not getting any attention will help to reduce the frequency of this behavior.

small dog with his owner's shoe
Image Credit: rad fx, Shutterstock

2. Your Dog Wants to Play

Your dog may be taking your shoes because he wants to play. Your dog may have quickly learned that taking something that belongs to you leads to a fun game of chase. If you start chasing after your dog every time he takes a shoe, your dog may think stealing a shoe is a great way to get you to play.

How to Remedy the Behavior

The next time your dog takes off with one of your shoes, don’t chase him. Instead, wait until your dog puts the shoe down and loses interest in it. Then simply pick your shoe up and put it someplace where your dog can’t get to it.

3. Your Dog is Teething

If you have a young dog that is teething, he may be taking your shoes because he needs something to chew on. Teething is an uncomfortable time for any young pooch as the deciduous teeth are being replaced by adult teeth.

Maybe shoes aren’t the only things your dog is stealing to chew on. Your dog may be grabbing everything within his reach to sink his teeth into. The good news is that teething is temporary and ceases once all the adult teeth have fully grown in.

How to Remedy the Behavior

When dogs are teething, they do lots of chewing. A good way to stop your dog from chewing on your shoes is to give him a special chew toy. An even better idea is to get several chew toys so you can leave them around the house, so your dog always has an appropriate item to chew on when the urge strikes.

dog chewing shoe
Image Credit: Lisa Hourin, Shutterstock

4. Your Dog is Bored

Many dogs steal things like shoes when they’re bored. Maybe your dog is bored silly and takes your shoes because he doesn’t have anything better to do. He may walk or run away with a shoe and find someplace in the house to hide it, just for fun. Even the most loved dogs need stimulation and if they don’t get it, they’ll find something to do to cut through the boredom.

How to Remedy the Behavior

If you suspect your dog is stealing your shoes because he’s bored, spend more time with your pooch throughout the day. Take more walks and spend more time playing fun doggie games inside like fetch, etc. A great idea is to buy your pooch a new dog toy now and then that’s sure to keep him busy. Look for a toy that’s age-appropriate and one that will challenge your dog like an interactive dog toy.

5. Your Dog Needs More Exercise

Your dog may be taking off with your shoes because he’s not getting enough exercise. All dogs need regular exercise, but some breeds need more than others. Naturally, small breeds require less daily exercise than bigger breeds so think about the type of dog you have.

Maybe you’ll discover that your dog isn’t getting as many opportunities to exercise as he should to stay mentally challenged and physically healthy.

How to Remedy the Behavior

If you suspect your dog isn’t getting the right amount of exercise, change your habits! Take your dog out for frequent long walks and spend more time playing with your little pal.

If you have children at home, ask them to take your dog outside to play more often. A great idea is to come up with a schedule to keep everyone on track. A well-exercised dog is a dog that’s less likely to steal shoes and chew on forbidden items like shoes, rugs, and other household items.

woman running with dog
Image By: Khakimullin Aleksandr, Shutterstock

6. Your Dog Likes the Smell

Maybe the reason your dog is stealing your shoes is that he likes the smell. As you may know, dogs are often attracted to odors we find offensive which include the smell of sweat and used shoes.

If you’ve noticed your dog doing a lot of sniffing on the shoes he steals, it’s probably the smell that’s prompting him to take them.

How to Remedy the Behavior

If your dog is only taking your leather shoes, he may be attracted to the smell of leather. A good way to remedy this behavior is to give him a leather dog toy that smells like his favorite pair of leather shoes. If your dog is taking any shoe he finds, use an anti-chew bitter spray on your shoes to keep him away.

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How to Teach Your Dog to Stop Stealing Things

Considering that dogs are inquisitive and playful animals, it should be no surprise when they steal common items they find around the home. Oftentimes, when you try to get an item away from your dog, a chase ensues wherein the whole ordeal turns into a fun game for your beloved pooch.

You can teach your dog to stop stealing things in many ways including the following:
  • Teach him the “drop it” command: Whenever your dog takes something that’s not his, like a shoe, tell him firmly to drop it. A good way to teach him the “drop it” command is to place a few training objects around the house and then put a collar and leash on your dog. Walk your dog around the house. When he stops to pick up one of the items with his mouth, stop walking and tell him to drop it. Repeat this training until your dog learns what “drop it” means and don’t forget to reward him when he gets it right!
  • Don’t chase him, no matter what: If you think your dog is stealing things to get you to chase him, don’t chase him anymore! Toss a dog toy down on the floor for your dog to play with. Once he leaves the shoe and goes for the toy, pick the shoe up and put it out of your dog’s reach.
  • Teach your dog to swap things: When your dog steals something he shouldn’t have, swap the time for a favorite toy or a tasty treat. Offer your dog a better item before you take away what he has. A good way to do this is to place a fun dog toy or a few treats on the floor away from your dog so he has to drop the time to go get the toy or treat. Then you can calmly pick the item up and put it away. If you do this repeatedly, your dog will learn that there are better things to play with and chew on than the items he’s finding laying around.

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As you can see, there are many reasons why dogs steal shoes. Use the information above to discover why your dog is taking off with your shoes. Once you know why he’s doing this, you can remedy the behavior by taking the appropriate action.

Just remember always be kind to your dog and don’t yell at him for bad behavior. Dogs are sensitive animals that respond best to positive reinforcement. So put on your happy face, remain calm, and always reward your dog for good behavior!

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