Dogs aren’t fussy eaters, but we need to draw the line when their appetite extends to socks. It’s frustrating to have to replace socks that have been munched, but it’s also dangerous for your dog since socks present a choking hazard and can cause blockages of the digestive tract. It’s important to note the distinction between pica, a compulsion to eat non-food items, and chewing, where the focus is on destroying the sock.
A bored dog will become destructive if left to his own devices. Sock eating may start off as sock chewing, but when sufficiently shredded, the dog may elect to digest the material. The best way to combat boredom-related sock chewing is to ensure your dog can’t get access to your socks. Then focus on alleviating your pup's boredom. Regular walks and stimulating play will help a lot.
When anxious or nervous, dogs can develop compulsive habits. Pacing, howling and tail-chasing are common examples. Because items of clothing carry your scent, the dog may find them attractive. Because socks are small and can often be dropped or left in reach, the combination of scent and availability are often enough to start your dog off with his sock-eating habit.
You may have inadvertently encouraged your dog into his sock-eating routine if, when he was a puppy, he picked up a sock to chew and you reacted by chasing after him, calling his name or otherwise attempting to retrieve the sock. Although it was negative, your dog learned that he got attention with a sock in his mouth. Now, when he’s feeling anxious, lonely or needy, all he needs to do is start eating that sock.
Pica may be linked to hunger and nutritional deficiency, although no scientific link has been proven. Dogs who are lacking essential nutrients in their diet can become desperate. Their body craves what they’re missing and they respond by eating lots of different things, such as wood, paper and stones. Because socks are easy to get when they’re in an open drawer or laundry basket or hanging out on the radiator, your dog may have chosen this item because of its abundance.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.