Stop, Shoe Thief!
Q&A with Pet Expert Arden Moore
For Pets Best Insurance
Q. My 3-year-old Dachshund, Schotzi, goes into my closet when I’m not home and takes my shoes out to chew on them. I try to keep the closet door closed, but if I inadvertently leave it open even a few inches, she pushes it open with her nose and drags out a shoe and destroys it. Why is she so obsessed with shoes, and how can I stop this bad (and expensive) habit?
A. I’m guessing the shoes in your closet that Schotzi prefers are made of leather. Many dogs find the smell and texture of leather intoxicating. They love the way it feels and tastes when they chew on it.
Some people make the mistake of giving old shoes to puppies to chew on when they are little, expecting the pup to know the difference between an old shoe that’s okay to chew and a newer shoe that is off-limits.
If Schotzi was given old shoes to gnaw on when she was little, she learned at an early age that shoes are made for chewing. Now, when she wants to gnaw on something, she simple helps herself from your wardrobe.
Even if you didn’t give Schotzi shoes when she was a puppy, she is choosing something that smells like you and that reassures her in your absence. Many dogs deal with loneliness or separation anxiety by seeking out their owner’s belongings (to dogs, even a stinky shoe is a comforting reminder of their owners).
Your first task is to make sure you don’t tempt her by leaving your closet door ajar. You might try putting self-closing hinges on the closet door or even closing your bedroom door as well. You could store your shoes on shelves above her reach or in a hanging container with pockets that hangs on the back of the door.
Next, give her something else to chew. Since she has a penchant for leather, consider a rawhide chew toy as a replacement. Talk to your veterinarian first to make sure rawhide is safe for your dog… give Schotzi one of these rawhide chews and praise her heartedly when she starts working on it. If she isn’t interested at first, a dab of peanut butter or a smear of cheese on the chew will probably increase its attractiveness.
In the event that Schotzi does sink her teeth into one of your shoes, and you catch her in the act, take it away from her and trade it for the rawhide chew. In time, she will get the message that shoes are a no and rawhides are a yes.
If Schotzi is one of those rare dogs who does not like to chew on rawhide, you may need to try a different chew toy to get her attention off your shoes. Take a trip to your local pet supply store and bring her with you. Walk her through the aisles and see which chew toys interest her the most. By letting her pick out her own chew toy, you are making her an active participant in her retraining.
Confounded by your canine? Frustrated by your feline? Relax. Pet expert Arden Moore is here to deliver the real truth about cats, dogs…and you with her column appropriately called, “Oh Behave!”
On a regular basis, Arden will unleash excerpts from her two award-winning books, The Dog Behavior Answer Book (named the top training and behavior book by the Dog Writers Association of America) and The Cat Behavior Answer Book (named the top training and behavior book by the Cat Writers Association). Learn more about Arden Moore, who also hosts a weekly radio show called “Oh Behave!” on Pet Life Radio (www.petliferadio.com) by visiting her Four Legged Life website (www.fourleggedlife.com).