Pet Talk: How to Stop Dogs from Eating Socks

Q: Our lab Quincy has a bad habit of eating the kids’ dirty socks. He has done this more than once and luckily has thrown them up without a problem. I am so afraid this could cause a serious problem and I am wondering if you have any suggestions to help stop him from doing this.

A: Why a dog would eat socks is anybody’s guess. The truth is that only dogs know for sure. For some reason the problem is more common than you would think. I believe dirty socks have lots of what dogs consider good smelling scents. Dogs explore the world with their mouths, similar to toddlers and sometimes swallow things in the process.

The first thing you need to do is diligently pick up all socks and put them in a hamper that has a tight lid or is stored in a closet where you can shut the door. I know this can be a hard task to get children to do, but it is important to instill in them the necessity of doing this so Quincy can’t get at them.

I don’t know how old your children are, but if they are old enough, explaining how sick their dog could get if he eats one of their socks may get them in the habit of making sure their clothes are put away. But with children it is always a very good idea to double check and make sure things are picked up.

Also make sure Quincy is getting enough exercise. Take him for long walks daily. Having him fetch a ball or doing some obedience training are good ways to burn up some energy. Teach your canine the command “drop it” or “leave it” in case you catch him in the act of getting ahold of something he shouldn’t have. When your dog obeys, be sure to give him a worthwhile reward. This will also help with problems of possessiveness by exchanging what you don’t want him to have for something he will really want, like a tasty treat of chicken or a favorite toy. There are also many creative toys such as a Buster Cube or Kong to keep a dog entertained and help fight boredom and hopefully this will divert his attention from seeking out socks to eat.

You may want to try using a spray like bitter apple on the socks before putting them in the hamper, just in case Quincy figures how to get at them. The smell and taste may be enough to deter him.

I too have a dog who has eaten socks. I did not see her do it and had no idea she would do such a thing. I knew there was a problem when she would eat a meal and hours later vomit the food back up undigested. Luckily she threw up a sock, to my surprise. Some dogs aren’t this lucky and get an intestinal blockage, which requires surgery.

If you suspect your dog has eaten something inappropriate be sure to call your veterinarian for advice. If your dog is vomiting, has a painful abdomen, problems defecating or any other signs of illness it’s time for a trip to the doctor.

If Quincy is young, he may outgrow this habit, but it is still important to try and resolve this issue by dog proofing your home and keeping an eye on him before he has a serious problem. Hope this helps.


Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected].

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