The sock monster

I was being sarcastic when I said that Elsa was not excited.  She'd been spinning right before she stopped to have an scratch.  

How many times have you chased your dog around the house after a sock?  Found your socks on the floor half eaten or pulled one on to see your toes stick out the end of it after your dog is done with them?  Socks are a big draw for many dogs; puppies can't seem to stay away from them.  Why?  First, the used ones smell like us; even after a good washing they still hold our scent on them.  Dogs like stuff that smell the most like us.  Plus they are a great size to wing around and destroy, right?  But socks can be very dangerous, deadly even; so getting rid of a sock monster can be a challenge. 

I live with Standard Poodles and that means that I pretty reliably have  very intense retrievers.  Many retriever type puppies are mouthy and love to pick up stuff and yes, wreck it.  Tilley was my first to display very intense retrieving or drive which showed up in her sock behavior.  It was also Tilley who taught me how to turn it around quickly. 

The first rule of teaching a dog not to pick up things that they should not pick up is to NEVER, EVER, chase.  The turn around starts with bribery.  That's right, bribery; which means that you must be armed and ready, always.  Food, good food, good enough to make your dog drop whatever it is in their mouth that they have picked up.  Depending on the type of dog you have, their drive and their smarts will factor in on how long the transition takes.  With Tilley it was a matter of a day or two. 

Teaching drop is essential.  If you yank whatever your dog has in their mouth and yell at them I can guarantee they are going to do grab something else.  That grabbing and prying to get the item away is attention.  Dogs love attention, even if it's not so great attention.  The problem with picking things up and simply reefing them out of their mouth is the swallow potential.  Some dogs swallow objects when faced with the potential loss of that item.  Teaching them that they will be rewarded if they give it up is key.  If you give me that I'll give you this, scenario.  Of course a puppy mind is easily pliable so the sooner you start the better. 

Rewarding your dog for giving you items creates a higher degree of them picking stuff up, at first.  But as they get older so does the constant retrieving of items that they should not have.  Seeing that you have a retriever, you should then move to retrieving "legal" items to fill that need.  You will also need to supervise so that you can stop the picking up of "illegal" items before they happen.  This helps to refine the retriever instinct to only retrieving "legal" things. 

The day that solidified the lesson for Tilley made me smile.  I was doing the dishes when she came into the kitchen with a sock hanging out of her mouth.  She stood looking at me waiting; waiting for her treat.  She'd brought  me another sock.  She had no intention of destroying it or eating it; she had quickly learned that it was most beneficial for her to bring it to me.  Never have I met a dog with more retriever drive. 

Luke was an underwear guy, not socks.  His problem lasted a bit longer; but he finally got it at well.  Even though Elsa has amazing and intense drive she has never been one to pick up stuff that she shouldn't.  Even still I have driven the message home that socks are not for eating.  For her, socks mean that we are going for a walk and she is happy to make sure that they get on my feet.