How to Train Your Dog to Not Eat Socks

How to Train Your Dog to Not Eat Socks
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon1-6 Months
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

When you're feeling hungry, nothing hits the spot quite like a juicy, delicious old sock. Well no, actually that sounds awful, but not if you're a pup with a sock fetish. These canines come in all shapes and sizes but they share one thing; their undying love for munching on dirty socks.

If you're the lucky owner of one of these doggos, you've likely lost many a foot glove to your pilfering roommate. Some dogs simply suck on their victims, while others chew holes or scarf the entire sock down. But here's the problem with the latter.  Other than the obvious inconvenience that a sock destroyer can cause you, the habit is actually really dangerous!
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Defining Tasks

Many a mutt has been unable to resist the temptation of a helpless sock on the floor. Some will even go searching for their favorite treat, breaking into closets and scouring through clothes hampers. But the reality is, if your pooch swallows even part of a sock, they could be in danger of having an intestinal blockage.

When the intestines become blocked or twisted, nothing can get through. This is bad news for the dog, as the backup will start to cause serious pain and even vomiting. If the pup doesn't get to a vet in time, things get much worse. An untreated blockage can actually kill a dog! And even if you do get help in time, you're looking at major emergency surgery and a big, fat vet bill.
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Getting Started

So, now that you now just how dangerous sock-eating is, how do you stop it? The first thing that you need to do is prepare for the task at hand. You're going to have to train your dog to give up socks - for good! Try to come to the table with the following:

  • Baby Gates or a Crate: This way you can create a safe space for your furry friend whenever you can't give them 100% of your attention.

  • Treats: Sock eating often has to be trained out of your dog. Treats make the training process much easier (and yummier).

  • A Muzzle: Don't worry! It doesn't have to be scary looking. Lots of muzzles on the market are comfy and help stop your mutt from sneaking socks.

  • Something that Tastes Bad: You might like the taste of Tabasco, but your dog sure doesn't. Hot sauce or bitter-spray will work for the training ahead.

You might not love the idea of spending all of this money on sock-ingestion prevention, but the total cost of all of the above is way less than an emergency vet bill! Also, it should be noted that Labradors are by far the worst offenders of this problem. They're  well known for having the ability to eat almost any item in existence.

Below are some of the best methods for stopping a sock-eater in his tracks.
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The Bored Barker Method

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1

Go for a walk

Take your dog out for a walk every morning if possible. A pupper that isn't getting enough exercise is likely to become destructive.

2

Get outside

Schedule some outdoor play every afternoon. Bring in help from other members of the household if you can.

3

Try different food

Switch up your dog's dinner. Try something a whole lot more appetizing, like raw or homemade options.

4

Spoil your pup

Go out and get a few new dog toys to keep your pooch’s interests elsewhere.

5

Remove all socks

Declare a sock lockdown! Get new hampers for everyone and make sure that they have lids.

The Bargaining Furbaby Method

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1

Get treats

Grab an especially enticing treat from the store. (Think hot dogs or cheese.)

2

Watch closely

Keep a close eye on your pooch. Even bait him, but only if he's not prone to gulping socks right down.

3

Offer something better

As soon as the smelly foot stocking enters his mouth, say “Treat!”, really loud and offer the goods.

4

Complete the bribe

To accept the tasty trade, your furry friend will have to drop the sock.

5

Reward the sock release

Praise him as soon as he does this, and take the sock away.

6

Repeat

Soon your dog will start to get that if he brings the forbidden item over to you, he'll get a much better reward in return.

The Obsessed Sock Stealer Method

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1

Lace the Socks

Buy some socks and douse them in your bad-taster. Spicy or bitter non-toxic flavors work best.

2

Allow a sniff

Let your dog take a whiff, or even a lick. Control the interaction so that swallowing is out of the question.

3

Use a muzzle

If this fails, get the muzzle that was listed earlier. Put it on whenever you can't supervise the dog, or during training sessions when a sock is present.

4

Call a professional

Eating socks can be lethal, so you need to learn how you should be training the dog from someone who knows what they're doing.

5

Practice what you learn

Chances are, that trainer is going to teach you how to do a proper “leave it!” command. Do this every day.

6

Be diligent

Adopt any other techniques that the trainer suggests. Keep your dog crated or in a secure, sock-free room whenever you are not at home.

By Abby Clark

Published: 10/11/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Milo

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Goldendoodle

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7 Months

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Question

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I have a sock eater. He just had surgery to remove a sock from. Small intestine

Feb. 22, 2021

Milo's Owner

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Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer

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257 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I have a 6 month old Labradoodle and had this exact issue last week! I've done some research over the years. There seems to be a behavioral component to the sock or inappropriate item eating. My best suggestion is to teach him the command leave it. And once he has mastered leave it, you can practice with socks and items on the ground. That will desensitize him to the socks or other items and he won't go after them in real life. Teaching “leave it” is not difficult. Begin the lessons inside your home or in an area with very few distractions. Here are the steps for teaching “leave it”: Make sure you have two different types of treats. One type can be fairly boring to the dog, but the other type should be a high-value treat that he finds pretty delicious. You will also want to make sure that the treats are broken up into pea-sized pieces so it won’t take him too long to eat them. Put one type of treat in each hand. If you like to train with a clicker as your marker, you can also hold a clicker in the same hand that holds the high-value treat. Then, place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the treat of lower value and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes sniffing your fist. As soon as your dog is done sniffing, you can either click with the clicker or say “yes.” Then offer him the higher-value treat in your other hand. Repeat until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “leave it.” When you say “leave it” and he stops sniffing right away, leash your dog and then toss a low-value treat outside of his reach. Wait until he stops sniffing and pulling toward the treat. As soon as he does, either say “yes” or click and then give him a high-value treat from your hand. Practice this exercise a number of times. Over time, by practicing “leave it,” your dog should stop pulling as soon as you give the cue. When rewarding him with a treat, make sure that it is something good, not plain old kibble. By doing so, you are teaching him that asking him to leave some food doesn’t mean he won’t get anything, but that in fact he might get something even more delicious. When your dog is reliably responding to the cue, you can teach him that “leave it” can apply to other things as well, not just food on the floor. Repeat the exercise with five different items that are fairly boring to your dog. After using five different “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items. You know your dog, so you alone know what items he would consider more interesting, but don’t jump to high-value items right away. To increase his chances of success at learning the cue, you want to work up to high-value items gradually. If Kleenex or a piece of plastic, for instance, would attract your dog on a walk, don’t start with those. Choose the items based on your ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave. . The reward he receives when he leaves an item can change as well. If your dog has a favorite toy, squeak it and play for a moment when he comes running to you after leaving the other item of interest. Most dogs love interacting with us, so a moment of praise or play with a toy can be just as effective as a treat. Keep it fun Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play. When your dog is proficient at the game in your home, start practicing in a variety of locations with more distractions.

Feb. 23, 2021

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Bruce

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Doberman Pinscher

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3 Years

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Bruce has had three major surgeries, one each year of his life. The first was to remove a KONG treat toy - he'd managed to bite a section off and swallow it - he was physicaly sick and in so doing the KONG section moved into his lower bowel. It was life / death by the time the vet operated and managed to remove it. The second was a reel of hazard tape - about the size of a large selotape reel - fortunately this only made it to his stomach and again was removed by surgery. The third August 2020 was a sock which had become entangled in his bowel within the scar tissues of previous surgeries. The vet was able to massage the sock back into his stomach and retrieve it. Since a pup Bruce has passed socks and cloths in his poop, it's been a constant battle. He goes hunting for them, steals them, runs off and swallows them in mid stride! Christmas Eve it was obvious that yet again there was something not right. He was vomiting, tail between his legs, pacing and salivating. By 9pm Christmas day he'd been admitted to the emergency vet. Knowing that he couldn't have another operation we were readying ourselves to 'let him go'. As usual the initial x-rays didn't show anything, he had blood tests, received fluids & pain killers but could not rest or settle. We decided to go ahead with a camera into his stomach to rule out any obstruction in there that may be retrieved. There was nothing other than masses of tangled scar tissue. We brought him home at 530pm Boxing day with pain killers and drugs used to treat Gastroenteritis in the hope that whatever it would would pass through naturally. We had until Tuesday - 2 days. Fed small amounts of chicken and rice every two hours, small drinks and small walks - he eventually passed a small poop at 0130 this morning. No sign of any foreign object yet so we're hoping and praying that he had / has a stomach bug that can be treated. So, we have a beautiful boy who will pretty much eat anything and everything and not because he's bored or hungry. His sister is a totally different character and we have no issues with her at all. We wait now and see what tomorrow will bring.

Dec. 28, 2020

Bruce's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lucy, I am so sorry to hear about all the struggles you have been through with him. I do hope he improves and there is not a serious issue this time. If pup recovers well, I do recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues and has experience with teaching avoidance, in hopes of avoiding such heartache in the future with pup. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Dec. 29, 2020


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