You’re going about your day when you notice your dog enter the room. They come closer. And then you realize. They have a pair of socks in their mouths again! Now, it’s only natural to wonder why your dog insists on doing this. What can it mean, and how should you respond? Is there something wrong, even? Well, here is everything you are going to want to know and consider.
So, why does my dog bring me socks? Dogs may bring socks to their owners because they think their owners are distressed, they want to bring them a present, or they see the socks as important items.
Perhaps not so much when your dog keeps doing it, though.
So let’s delve into those reasons in further detail before turning to whether we can stop this behavior and if so, how to.
Reasons Why a Dog May Bring You Socks
Your dog may bring you socks either to comfort you, bring you a present, or return something that belongs to you.
He Senses You’re Distressed
Dogs are very smart and your dog knows when you are distressed.
Your dog wants you to be happy, so he may instinctively bring you ‘toys’ such as socks to cheer you up.
Your dog bringing you socks in this situation is his way of telling you that he knows you’re upset and he’s doing what he can to help you feel better.
Because your dog cares about your well-being, he may do whatever he can to cheer you up.
New research now shows that dogs will make a conscious effort to cheer up their people – not just by using socks, but by changing their facial expressions.
If your dog makes his eyes look bigger or raises his eyebrows when bringing you some nice, smelly socks, he is doing this on purpose!
He Wants to Bring You A Present
Some dogs love greeting their people with something in their mouth, which is usually their favorite toy.
If your dog loves socks, it may be he likes to greet you with socks in his mouth.
If your dog brings you socks and you aren’t in any kind of distress, he probably wants to bring you a present.
Sometimes your dog bringing you socks is just his way of saying he loves you.
He can’t say it with words, so he will find other ways of demonstrating his affection for you.
Wild dogs will carry their prey to store for later or to take home to cubs as part of daily life.
Some wild dogs will carry precious items further away from the pack to bury them for consumption at a later date. These instincts are preserved in many domesticated dogs today.
Retriever, terrier, and hunting breeds will naturally fetch and carry items, as this is part of their instincts.
Because of many years of selective breeding, this behavior is deeply ingrained in many breeds.
Retrievers, for example, will pick up prey gently to then hand it over to their owners. The 6 retriever breeds recognized by the AKC (American Kennel Club) are:
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- Curly-Coated Retriever
- Flat-Coated Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Terriers were bred in order to kill vermin. These dogs have a natural desire to carry things back to you, which sometimes can be socks.
The AKC recognizes over 30 terrier breeds. Some of the most common terrier breeds are:
- Miniature Schnauzer
- West Highland White Terrier (Westie)
- Scottish Terrier
- Bull Terrier
- Airedale Terrier
- Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
- Russell Terrier
- Cairn Terrier
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- American Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Hunting breeds are also happy carriers of all kinds of items, including socks. Some of the most common hunting breeds are:
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- American Foxhound
- English Springer Spaniel
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- Bluetick Coonhound
- English Setter
- Irish Setter
He Sees Socks as Important
Many dogs love socks because of their texture and smell. They also see socks as important items.
Dogs are natural scavengers, and they are accustomed to using their incredible sense of smell to sniff out prey, bones, and toys.
Dogs will naturally steal and hide things that they find appealing.
If your dog picks up your scent on your socks, he will decide the socks are important.
He’ll either assume you have left them for him as a gift, or that you lost them, in which case it’s his job to bring them back to you.
Socks are one of the most appealing items for dogs for two reasons:
- Dogs naturally love anything that’s soft to the touch. Think of wild dogs who are drawn to rabbits, rats, and other furry creatures as prey.
- Socks are effective carriers of human (and other) scents.
- Socks are easy to carry around in a dog’s mouth without causing harm.
- Many dogs find soft items comforting, as they remind them of snuggling up with their mom and siblings.
Should You Stop Your Dog From Bringing You Socks?
Unless your dog’s behavior is a serious problem for you, or you suspect your dog might be unhappy or ill, there’s no reason to stop your dog from bringing you socks.
If your dog isn’t acting unhappy or hurt, there’s no reason to stop him bringing you socks.
Let him carry socks to you and learn to live with it if you can, as this behavior is usually serving some useful purpose for your dog (see above).
Dogs can find it very calming to carry things in their mouths – particularly soft socks – no matter what type of breed.
If you let your high-energy dog carry socks to you, you are allowing him to calm himself down in a way that comes naturally to him.
If your dog is trying to bring you a present or to ease your distress, you certainly wouldn’t want to throw those efforts back in his face.
Just imagine how you would probably feel if you were rejected while trying to offer someone comfort – your dog feels rejection, too, so accept his attempts to please you if you can.
In fact, if you try to stop him from doing something that he finds calming or useful, you can potentially cause him stress and upset.
Of course, there are those instances when you won’t want to receive socks in the face and you’ll want to curb this behavior (see below).
If you think your dog is trying to get your attention or is asking for playtime, make sure you are meeting his needs for both mental and physical stimulation before trying to stamp out any unwanted behavior.
How Do You Stop A Dog from Bringing You Socks
Check the cause of your dog’s behavior before attempting to stop or change it. Once you know why he’s bringing you socks, you can then look at other ways to help him meet his needs, if you really must.
Times When It May Be Possible To Stop Your Dog From Bringing You Socks
If Your Dog is Acting Out Of Habit
If your dog has brought you socks in the past and you have reacted with joy, anger, or any other kind of attention, you have been encouraging him.
Even if you didn’t mean to encourage your dog, any type of attention is a reward for him (positive and negative).
If you’ve smiled or cuddled your dog when he’s brought you socks before, you’ve taught him that sock-bringing is good behavior.
Because your dog has a desire to please you, you can try and use positive reinforcement for new behavior.
You’ll have to ignore the sock-bringing (the behavior you don’t want) and encourage new behavior (perhaps bringing you a toy).
If Your Dog Is Craving Attention
If your dog is bringing you socks because he wants attention, such as playtime, make sure your dog is getting the physical and mental exercise that he needs.
Dogs who are healthy with a routine of exercise and games tend to be content – unless they suffer from a physical health problem or an emotional health issue such as separation anxiety.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from separation anxiety – or even a less severe form of stress – get help to calm your dog down.
In most cases, separation anxiety requires the intervention of a dog behaviorist.
Once you have addressed the cause of your dog’s distress, the behavior should resolve itself.
Times When You Probably Have To Tolerate Your Dog Bringing You Socks
If Your Dog Is Acting Out Of Instinct
If your dog is instinctively bringing you things – because he’s a retriever, terrier, or hunting breed, for instance, it would be cruel to try and change his natural way of being.
If Your Dog Sees Socks As Important
If your dog is convinced that socks are important items because they smell like you, you might be able to get him to switch the socks for another item, such as a stuffed toy, but it’s unlikely that you’ll stop this behavior altogether.
If Your Dog Thinks You’re Distressed
If your dog is bringing you socks because he thinks you’re distressed, chances are you won’t be able to change this behavior.
Your dog probably believes he’s bringing you something comforting, and it would cause more harm than good to try and discourage him from trying to help you.
It’s worth knowing that dogs will try and rescue humans, as long as they have a sense of what to do.
How To Protect Your Socks
Even though in some cases you won’t be able to stop your dog from bringing you socks, you can at least limit the number of times he does this.
Here are some tips for protecting your socks:
- Store your socks – as well as dirty laundry – in secure cabinets or drawers that your dog can’t open
- Give your dog a basket of suitable substitutes for him to carry around. Many dogs like soft, fluffy stuffed toys. Be sure the items you choose are suitable for dogs, as their teeth are quite sharp and they can inadvertently swallow dangerous things like stuffing, string, or buttons
- Use dog gates or childproofing equipment to keep some areas of your home out-of-bounds
- Give your dog plenty of physical and mental stimulation so that he is calm when relaxing at home
- Teach your dog useful commands, such as ‘leave it’ and ‘drop it’. These commands can save your dog’s life if he gets into something he shouldn’t.
Dogs love to bring their owners random things.
And as you know, those things can include socks!
Hopefully by now you know, in most cases this is not usually a cause for concern, nor anything you need to necessarily stop.
That being said, in some situations and contexts it may be something you may want to limit.
And thankfully, there are some things you can do!
Other guides you may be interested in:
- Why Does My Dog Bring Me His Bone?
- Why Does My Dog Bring Me His Treats?
- Why Does My Dog Take My Socks Off My Feet?
- Why Does My Dog Hide My Socks?
- Why Does My Dog Drop His Toys On Me?
- Why Is My Dog So Nosey?
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.