What an odd one. Your dog has got into the habit of removing the socks from your feet. It seems a little presumptuous, if you ask me. Naturally, it’s only natural to question why your dog may do this; is it normal behavior? Is it a cry for attention or something more to do with the socks, specifically? Well, here is everything you are going to want to know about this development and how to respond!
So, why does my dog take my socks off my feet? Dogs may take socks off their owner’s feet because they want attention – they’re simply bored or understimulated. Many dogs will also take socks because they want to chew on them. And other dogs may take socks to satisfy a craving, which sometimes comes from a condition called Pica.
For the latter, it may be a sign that you need to give your socks a good old wash.
I’m not saying you have cheesy feet; dogs just have a fantastic sense of smell.
Besides, I don’t believe my feet are that smelly and my dog still goes for my socks from time to time!
So let’s delve into those reasons in greater detail before turning to if you should stop your dog from doing so, and if you can, what you should do.
Reasons Why A Dog May Take Your Socks Off Your Feet
Your dog may take your socks off your feet either as a bid for attention or because he wants something that smells like you to chew on. Sometimes, though, stealing your socks is a sign your dog is trying to satisfy a craving that might or might not be caused by problems such as Pica.
Your Dog Wants Your Attention
Dogs love attention from their people, whom they try so hard to please: attention from their owners has been proven to impact dogs’ facial expressions.
Your dog could be snatching your socks from your feet because of the attention you give him afterward.
Dogs can turn this sock-stealing into a game of ‘keep away’ – running away from their owners as they chase them, trying to get their socks back.
Your Dog Wants To Chew
Chewing things comes naturally to dogs, so you’ll need to give your dog things to satisfy this need. Every dog needs safe items he can chew, bite, and pull on.
Teething puppies, in particular, need to chew to help their adult teeth come in.
Older dogs benefit from chewing to help keep their teeth clean and their jaws strong.
Socks provide a soft texture for chewing, so your dog is perhaps using your socks to satisfy his chewing needs.
Your Dog Is Trying to Satisfy A Craving
Some dogs can steal and chew socks to satisfy a craving.
If you notice your dog stealing your socks compulsively, he may have a compulsive eating behavioral problem called Pica.
Pica causes dogs to crave (and eat) inedible objects.
While dogs with Pica will eat just about anything, they prefer items that have your scent attached – such as your socks.
Pica can be caused by a medical condition as well as by separation anxiety or stress (see below).
Should You Stop Your Dog From Taking Your Socks Off Your Feet?
If your dog is otherwise healthy and happy, there is no need to stop him from stealing socks off your feet as long as he isn’t eating them. If however, you suspect Pica or another health condition, or if you know your dog is unhappy or craving attention, address these problems first. The sock-stealing behavior will then take care of itself.
When You Don’t Need To Be Concerned
If your dog is stealing your socks because he wants attention, you don’t need to put a stop to his behavior.
Simply offer your dog the attention he craves, and the sock-stealing should stop (see below).
If your dog is taking socks from your feet because he wants something to chew on, taking steps to offer him suitable alternatives for chewing should put a stop to this behavior quite easily (see below).
When You Need To Be Concerned
If your dog is suffering from a condition like Pica, you will need to see your vet to get help.
Pica can be very dangerous: even soft items like socks can get stuck in your dog’s stomach or intestines and can damage the bowel wall, leading to infections and leakages. In some cases, the consequences can be fatal.
And not only that, your dog may not just stop at socks. It could be a number of items which could prove more dangerous.
Once your vet has determined the cause of the Pica, you can then take the appropriate steps to help your dog.
Treatment for Pica varies depending on whether it’s caused by a medical problem (a parasite or a problem absorbing nutrients) or a non-medical problem (separation anxiety or stress).
Steps to take if you suspect Pica are outlined below.
How Do You Stop A Dog from Taking Your Socks Off Your Feet?
What you’ll need to do to stop your dog from taking your socks off your feet depends on the reasons why he’s stealing them in the first place.
If Your Dog Wants Your Attention
If your dog is stealing your socks from you for attention, the remedy is simple: give him some attention!
Don’t give him attention when he steals your socks, though, even if it’s negative attention.
Make sure you dedicate time each day to your dog for playing with him and spending other types of quality time together. Try things like:
- Going for long walks or jogs.
- Playing games that put his sense of smell to good use, such as hiding treats around the house for him to find. Some dogs enjoy playing a form of the shell game with treats or other smelly objects hidden underneath the cups.
- Teaching your dog the ‘drop it’ command if he doesn’t know it already. You can then teach him to put his toys away, which will give him added confidence and mental stimulation. To do this, give your dog a toy and ask him to ‘drop it’ once he’s standing over his container where his toys go. Praise him a lot, then rinse and repeat
- Playing games like tug-of-war and fetch.
- Teaching your dog new tricks like finding his favorite toy or getting you something from the fridge (tie a towel around the door handle so he can open it).
- Giving your dog puzzle toys or stuffed Kong balls for him to sniff out treats like peanut butter (you can even freeze a stuffed Kong ball, making it last even longer).
- Taking your dog to dog clubs like agility training or water sports classes.
The next time your dog steals your socks, ignore him completely. Try not to react in any way – behave as if you haven’t even noticed what he’s done.
If your dog takes your socks and hides them and doesn’t want to give them back, you can try bribing your dog.
Grab his favorite toy and get him to play – by rewarding your dog when he gives your sock back, he’s more likely to return it to you himself next time.
Usually, by your dog receiving attention in other ways, he’ll eventually learn that stealing your socks isn’t bringing him the reward that he craves.
If Your Dog Wants To Chew
Because all dogs need safe things to chew on, you should already have such items at hand for your dog.
If he’s insisting on chewing on your socks instead, look at what he has and try making some changes.
If it happens that your dog is an aggressive chewer, he may want something tough like bully sticks or antler chews.
There are also excellent synthetic dog chews available that are shaped like bones but that don’t carry the risks of splintering that animal bones have.
If your dog prefers soft things to chew, there are various kinds of stuffed toys made especially for dogs that you can offer.
If You Suspect Your Dog Has Pica
If you suspect your dog may have Pica, you will need to address this condition asap, as it can have fatal consequences.
Take your dog to the vet for a health check-up.
Sometimes Pica is the result of a parasite or a problem absorbing nutrients, so your vet may wish to run tests to determine the cause.
If your dog’s Pica is caused by a non-medical issue such as separation anxiety or stress, there are other steps to take in addition to providing your dog with a medical check-up.
If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Dogs are social creatures, and they miss their people when they’re not at home.
If your dog is using your socks as a source of comfort when you’re not around, your first step is to help him with his anxiety.
Here are a few practical things you can do to help:
- Leave out some recently-worn trousers or a t-shirt. These clothes still carry your scent, but they’re large enough to be difficult to eat.
- See if you can enlist the help of a family member or friend to come and spend some time with your dog in the middle of the day.
- Consider taking your dog to doggy daycare a few times a week – your dog will make new friends and get lots of mental and physical exercise.
- Find a cuddly toy for your dog and put your scent on it (rub your body with it or sleep with it before giving it to your dog).
- If your dog’s separation anxiety is severe, seek out a trained dog behaviorist to help you implement a desensitization and counterconditioning program.
If Your Dog Is Stressed
If you suspect your dog is stressed, you may have noticed one or more of the following signs:
- Whining or barking.
- Dilated pupils or eyes open really wide, making them look startled or scared.
- Ears pinned back against the head.
- Pacing or shaking.
- Licking, yawning or drooling more than usual.
- Excessive shedding.
- Panting even without having exercised (or if it isn’t hot outside).
- Changes in bodily functions.
- Hiding or escaping (or nudging owners to move out of the way).
- Avoiding interactions with people or animals.
- Changes in body posture, such as cowering or tucking his tail.
Here’s what you can do to help your stressed dog:
- Remove him from the source of the stress. Bring him to a quiet place.
- Don’t comfort him too much – better to have him respond to a routine command (such as ‘sit’) to provide a sense of normalcy before giving him a cuddle or a treat. Responding to known commands can provide calm to a worried dog.
- Make sure your dog is getting enough physical exercise, which is a great stress reducer for everyone. Playing fetch with your dog or taking him for a walk can help him release pent-up tension.
- If your dog is consistently stressed, take him to the vet. You’ll want to make sure his stress doesn’t have medical causes.
- If the cause of your dog’s stress can’t be treated medically, your vet will most likely refer you to a dog behaviorist who can help.
If your dog has developed the habit of stealing your socks right off your feet, thanfully you’re going to notice.
The truth is, whether or not this is a behavior in which you need to worry about will vary dog to dog, context to context.
Most of the time there’s little to worry about.
Though there could always be the possibility that this is a sign of something more serious, like Pica.
So monitor and observe your dog closely. Pay attention to other items they go after. And, if you do suspect Pica, get in contact with a vet.
Besides, it’s always best to be safe, and dogs love to swallow!
Related guides you may want to check out:
- Why Does My Dog Hide My Socks? [Can You Stop Them Doing So?]
- Why Does My Dog Bring Me Socks? [And What To Do About It]
- Why Does My Puppy Lick My Feet? [And How To Stop Them]
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.