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Why Does My Dog Steal My Socks? 5 Reasons & How to Stop It

Chantelle Fowler

By Chantelle Fowler

boxer dog stealing socks

Dogs can exhibit a lot of puzzling behaviors, and as a dog owner, you’ve probably tried figuring out what these strange behaviors mean.  Perhaps one of the strangest behaviors that dogs do is steal their owners’ socks. Why on Earth would your dog want to put something so dirty and stinky in their mouth? It turns out that there are a lot of reasons your pup suddenly decides he wants to make your used socks his new toy, and we’re going to go over each of these reasons today.

Keep reading to find the reasons why dogs steal socks and what you can do to keep your socks safe from your laundry thief.

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The 5 Reasons Your Dog Steals Your Socks

1. For Attention

Most dogs absolutely love attention, especially when it comes from their owners that they try so hard to please. They might be snatching your laundry because of the attention you give him after you find the sock thief in action. He might even turn it into a game of “keep away”, running away from you as you try to retrieve your laundry.

What You Can Do

If your dog is stealing your socks because he’s looking for attention, pay him some attention. Carve out time every day to play with your pup and spend quality time with one another. Take him for more walks and spend time doing more of his favorite activities together.

germna shepherd dog playing outdoors with its owner
Image Credit: Zozz_, Pixabay

2. For Chewing

Chewing is a natural behavior in dogs and you should provide your pup with a safe outlet for this behavior. Your dog needs things in his environment that he can bite, chew, and pull on. This is especially true if you’re raising a teething puppy as they need to chew on things to find relief from aching gums. For older dogs, chewing is a great way to keep jaws strong and their teeth clean.

What You Can Do

Since chewing is a natural behavior, your dog might never grow out of it. It’s better to try and work with your dog on this behavior rather than try to eliminate it together. The easiest fix for a chewer is to offer chews.

There are many different types of chews on the market and the one you ultimately choose will depend on what kind of chewer your pup is. Aggressive chewers need something durable and tough like antler chews from moose or deer. Bully sticks are an easily digestible chew treat made from beef muscle. They’re great for any kind of chewer.

3. To Kill a Craving

If your dog is stealing your socks and you’re noticing your sock stockpile slowly dwindling, your dog might have a compulsive eating behavior called “pica.” Pica is a condition where they crave inanimate and non-consumable things. PetMD suggests that while dogs with pica will eat pretty much anything, they tend to favor items that have their owner’s scent attached.

What You Can Do

If you suspect that your dog is indeed dealing with pica, you should take him to the veterinarian for a health check-up. Your vet might want to run some lab tests to see if he’s having problems with nutrient absorption or may have parasites.

Pica isn’t always caused by a medical issue, however. Sometimes dogs with separation anxiety or stress can start eating things in their environment.

dog at vet
Image Credit: ESB Professional, Shutterstock

4. For Separation Anxiety

Dogs are social creatures and can miss their humans when they’re not home. If your dog has a problem with separation anxiety, he might start seeking out something to comfort him while you’re away. Your socks are an attractive choice to him because they’re small enough to fit comfortably in his mouth and smell strongly of you.

What You Can Do

It’s heartbreaking to know that the reason your dog is acting out is that they miss you. Your approach to treating his separation anxiety will differ depending upon how serious his problem is.

For dogs with mild anxiety, you can try leaving out some of your recently-worn pants. This will allow him to smell you, but the clothes won’t be small enough that he can eat them in one go. You might also try giving him a treat every time you leave so he associates your absence with something more positive.

A cuddle toy is a great investment that your dog can find a lot of comfort in.

Dogs with serious separation anxiety won’t be fooled by treats or pants. They will require a little bit more patience as you both try to navigate how to alleviate his worries. You may need to implement a complex desensitization and counterconditioning program to help him overcome his woes.

5. To Crush Boredom

Dogs are just like us in many ways. They can get bored if they don’t have enough enrichment in their lives and that boredom can lead to strange behavior like sock stealing.

What You Can Do

If your dog has been playing with the same old toys since he was a puppy, it’s time to upgrade. You might also consider hiding away some of his toys so you can rotate them in and out every few weeks. This will be a little easier on your wallet as you won’t need to keep buying new toys for him.

You can also try increasing the number of canine enrichment activities your pup can do. Enrichment for dogs includes activities that will stimulate their brains and make them solve problems. A treat-dispensing toy is a great enrichment item that can entertain your dog for some time. Stuffed Kong toys are another common enrichment activity that your dog will look forward to doing.

You might also consider removing all temptations. Your dog can’t snatch your socks if they’re out of reach. Laundry baskets with latching lids can be difficult for dogs to get into.

labrador dog playing with sock
Image Credit: Zachary Pennington, Shutterstock

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Do I Need to Stop My Dog Thief?

While sock stealing might be funny and endearing at first, it will eventually lose its novelty. You’ll tire of having to replace your sock drawer every few months and your wallet will be less-than-pleased with the amount of money you’re spending on socks. Plus, we should never encourage unwanted behavior in our animals. This is especially true in the case of sock stealing because it could actually severely harm or even kill your dog.

You could be looking at hefty vet bills if your dog starts to eat your clothing. Socks can become lodged in the stomach or intestines and eventually cause damage to your dog’s bowel wall, leading to leakages and even fatal infections.

Are Certain Breeds More Likely to Be Sock Thieves?

While any dog can exhibit sock-stealing behavior, some breeds are more pre-dispositioned to take your socks.

Golden Retrievers and Yorkshire Terriers are more likely to steal your personal effects than other breeds. Golden Retrievers love to use their mouths to pick up objects to show off to their families or, well, pretty much anyone who will pay attention to them. Terriers are known for their love of digging so chances are if your Terrier is making off with your socks, he’s probably trying to “bury” them somewhere in the house.

Yorkshire Terrier with toy
Image Credit: PaniKman, Pixabay

What To Do When You Catch Your Dog Stealing?

So, what should your course of action be if you catch your dog in the act of stealing?

Shouting at your pup or running after him is not going to achieve the result you want. Your dog may think you’re wanting to play and turn it into a game of keep-away or he may start to perceive you as a threat and become afraid or defensive.

The fastest way to retrieve your stolen sock back is to bribe them. Go to where you store their food and start rummaging through it or grab their favorite toy and try to get them to play with you. Though it might seem like you’re rewarding bad behavior, this isn’t the case if you look at it from your dog’s point of view.

By rewarding your pooch when he returns your sock to you, he’ll be more likely to return it on his own next time. If you yell at him or chase after him, he might be more likely to run away from you or hide.

What Do I Do If My Dog Ate My Sock?

If your dog is a sock thief, there may come a time when he accidentally swallows one. While this can be terrifying as an owner, it’s important to know what to do if this situation arises.

First of all, remain calm. Your dog will be able to pick up on your fear and panic, which won’t be helpful to either of you.

Next, try to determine how big the sock he swallowed was and when he swallowed it, and take note of his current symptoms. Is he exhibiting any signs of illness or distress?

Once you know the answers to those questions, it’s time to call your vet. Your vet will be able to give you the best course of action depending on the above factors.

The severity of the sock-swallowing situation will depend on the size of your pup, the size of the sock, the material of the sock, and your dog’s health condition. Some dogs will pass a swallowed item within 24 hours, while it can become a life-threatening condition for others. It’s always best not to assume in a life-or-death situation like this and take your dog for a professional evaluation.

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Final Thoughts

Dogs stealing their owners’ personal effects is a fairly common behavior for them to exhibit. Just because it’s common, though, doesn’t mean it’s something you have to learn to live with. With a little bit of time and some patience, you can break your pup of his sock-stealing habit so your socks stay in pairs and your dog stays content and preoccupied with healthier behaviors.

Featured Image Credit: Jana Behr, Shutterstock

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