If you’ve ever come home to discover your favorite shoes now have air conditioning courtesy of Fido, you know the frustration of having a dog who likes to eat shoes. It seems that no matter where you put them, Fido seems to find them and leave behind his “mark.” While you enjoy shopping for shoes as much as the next person, you don’t love having to replace expensive footwear on a weekly basis. At this point, you’re on a first name basis with the all of the salesmen at the leading shoe stores in your favorite mall. But wearing your shoes in their current canine redesigned state just isn’t an option! If you have a dog who fancies himself a canine Jimmy Chew, is there any hope for your shoes? What can be done to keep your dog from eating your favorite footwear?
Why dogs chew shoes
Canine behavior is most often deeply rooted in logic. Dogs aren’t random creatures, and they are very efficient in their actions. When a dog does something, there is generally a very good reason for the behavior. Unfortunately, when it comes to canine-human understanding, there is often a disconnect because dog logic and human logic can be quite incompatible. Yet, by studying early canine origins, we can often draw conclusions as to the motivating factor behind common dog actions.
So, Why do Dogs like to Chew Shoes?
There are many different reasons why dogs like to chew on shoes. Here is a list of some of the possible motivating factors behind Fido’s footwear fascination:
He’s teething/experiencing tooth pain.
When a dog experiences tooth pain, he is quick to find a way to alleviate his suffering. Chewing on something soft and pliable often reduces the pressure and discomfort brought on by teething or other dental issues. Typically, puppies are among the worst culprits when it comes to shoe destruction. Puppies lack the discernment to distinguish between appropriate chew toys and inappropriate ones. Thus, your shoes can inadvertently become the object of your puppy’s most ardent affection, much to your chagrin. The good news is that puppies usually outgrow this phase, so the damage will be limited to your current shoe collection not future acquisitions.
Your shoes smell tasty.
Since dogs possess olfactory senses that are much more acute than our own, they are easily drawn to things that emit familiar smells. Shoes that are made of leather are reminiscent of rawhides or other foods or treats that he is allowed to chew on or eat regularly. But not only is leather a draw for dogs, any shoe that absorbs the essence that smells like you, Fido’s beloved owner, is sure to attract your dog. By licking and chewing your shoes, your dog may simply be trying to understand where you’ve been and what you’ve been up to when away from him.
Chewing provides great stress relief for an anxious or bored dog. In the absence of something better to do, your dog will create his own fun, and unfortunately, we typically don’t like the things that Fido gets up to when left to his own devices.
You’ve accidentally rewarded the behavior in the past.
Many owners fail to realize that any attention, including negative attention, is a reward for your dog. If you walk into a room and find Fido chowing down on your wife’s favorite Manolo Blahniks and you let out a bellow, it may have the opposite effect of what you were hoping for. The greatest treasure in any dog’s life is time spent with you, and if a behavior he engages in elicits a response, whether positive or negative, you are likely to see it again…and again…and again…With this in mind, the best action is no reaction.
Solutions to the Problem
If you have a shoe chewer in your home, all is not lost. It is possible to teach your dog that shoes are firmly off limits. Here are some tips to help you correct shoe-chewing behavior:
Never allow your dog to chew any footwear.
As with many things in life, it is easier to start as you mean to go. Many people think it is harmless to allow a dog to chew an old pair of slippers or shoes that they no longer care about or wear. While this may seem a harmless thing to do, dogs do not generalize well. They are not able to distinguish between your old beat up slippers, and your teenage daughter’s brand new Skechers. To ensure your dog does not develop a habit you will later have to break, simply do not permit your dog to chew footwear, old or new, at any time.
Remove temptation by putting all footwear away.
Though it can be a nuisance, the simplest solution is often to put all shoes in a closet or location that your dog does not have access to. A dog cannot destroy what he cannot find. Over time, your dog will lose interest in your shoes and move on to other more appropriate items to sink his teeth into, so this strategy does not have to be employed forever. However, when attempting to break a dog of the chewing habit, it is best to strictly adhere to keeping all shoes out of your dog’s reach.
Provide alternative chewing options.
Dogs do love to chew, and the action itself helps to calm an anxious dog and even help to alleviate boredom. With this in mind, it’s important to provide your dog with a number of items that he can select to chew on. Be sure to regularly add something new to the toy box or even rotate toys in and out to provide maximum interest level. A dog who is bored with his toys may resort to making toys of his own, and that puts your furniture and your shoes at risk!
Should you happen to find your dog mid shoe chew, it is important to never scold him. Any attention, be it negative or positive, will reinforce the behavior. Simply walk over to your dog, extricate your shoe, and replace it with a more appropriate object for your dog to chew on. In time, your dog will get the message and begin to seek out the toys that were intended for him alone. The last thing you want is your dog to start eating your furniture or underwear.
Got a canine shoe chewer in house? If so, you are not alone! But take heart; by following the simple tips in this article, you can help your dog realize that there are lots more fun things to sink his teeth into other than your favorite pair of Converse!