Why Do Dogs Chew on Shoes?

Adrienne Farricelli

Why do dogs chew on shoes? So you step out of the room, go fix yourself a sandwich and then when you walk back into the room you find your dog gnawing on your shoes. Understanding what triggers shoe chewing in dogs can help you get to the root of the problem.

Why do dogs chew on shoes? So you step out of the room, go fix yourself a sandwich and then when you walk back into the room you find your dog gnawing on your shoes. If this scene sounds all too familiar, rest assured you are not alone: countless dog owners complain about their dogs chewing on their shoes.

Whether your dog chews on your new pair of expensive stilettos or on your cheap pair of slippers, you likely feel frustrated about your dog's behavior. Understanding what triggers shoe chewing in dogs can help you get to the root of the problem, but let's face it though, there's nothing cuter than a dog innocently gnawing on a pair of shoes!

Puppies find leather shoes irresistible

A Teething Issue

Have you ever seen babies who cry and chew on their fingers or toys when they are teething? The chewing is an instinctive behavior to get relief from those sore gums. The same thing happens to puppies. The puppy teething stage starts at about 2 to 3 weeks of age when the first milk teeth start erupting.

By the time the puppy is 6 to 8 weeks, the puppy should have a complete set of 28 teeth comprising 12 incisors, 4 canines and 12 premolars. Afterward, the puppy's milk teeth start to fall out and the permanent teeth start coming through up until when the puppy is 6 to 8 months.

During the teething phase, it's normal for puppies to want to mouth on things and chew to get relief from those sore gums. A pair of shoes offers the perfect solution, they're readily available, fun to chew on and they offer the perfect texture to relieve sore gums.

Relief from Boredom

What happens when you leave your dog with little to do and your dog has only access to things he shouldn't have? All bets are off that your dog will likely get in trouble.

 Dogs aren't really troublemakers by nature, it's not like they're deliberately plotting their next move out of spite, they are just unfortunately put into situations that sets them up for failure. And shoes are so easy to reach, they seem to be left on purpose right in front of a dog's nose!

It's ultimately up to us dog owners helping them succeed by providing them with plenty of activities, leaving out only things they can chew on and limiting their access to what they shouldn't chew.

Attention Seeking Behavior

If your dog is left alone for most of the day with little to do, when you come home from work your dog is most likely expecting his slice of attention from you. If you're too busy to play with your dog, walk him or give him attention, he'll likely do anything that gets you to look at him or talk to him.

The interaction doesn't necessarily have to entail positive attention: for dogs who feel neglected, even negative attention is better than anything at all! 

So if you ignore your dog when you come home, and plop yourself on the couch to watch a movie, your dog may find that chewing a shoe is a good way to grab your attention. If this happens all too often, instead of scolding your dog, consider listening to your dog's plea for help.

Shoes laces have too their own appeal!

Attractive Chew Toy

Dogs may chew shoes just because they make attractive chew toys to start with. For instance, shoes carry a lot of your scent which makes them particularly appealing to dogs who feel lonely.

Just to get an idea, consider that human feet are loaded with approximately 250,000 sweat glands that are constantly secreting moisture. It is not unusual therefore for human feet to release as much as half a pint of moisture each day! Dogs are therefore naturally drawn to them and will seek them out, especially when left alone. 

 Also, since you walk in many places with your shoes, your footwear also carries a whole lot of scent that makes them very attractive.

Then, consider texture, shoes are made of materials that may be appealing to dogs to chew on and those shoe laces sure makes them fun to play with. 

Leather ranks high as a favorite type of shoe to chew on because it smells good and tastes good since it's made of cattle hide. On top of this, chewing on leather is rewarding as it tends to become softer and tastier the more the dog chews on it. 

Fuzzy slippers can be greatly fun to chew too considering that they bring out a dog's ancestral need to chew things and rip them apart as if they were treasured prey.

So shoes surely draw your dog's attention, so once he lies down next to them, it's just a matter of time that his sniffing turns into into mouthing and then his mouthing turns into chewing, and next thing you know, your shoe is broken into pieces.

Doggy Anxiety Relief

Some dogs may chew on inappropriate items when they are anxious. Shoes often provide relief because as mentioned, they deeply smell like their owners. Sniff, after sniff, it becomes extremely tempting to chew. 

The act of chewing is a natural, instinctive way for dogs to release stress and when dogs chew they also may release endorphins which make them feel good. 

Chewing therefore can help a dog relax and this may why many dogs will chew a bone and then shortly thereafter, fall asleep.

Now That You Know...

So you open your door only to find your dog is chewing on your shoes, what to do? First and foremost, don't panic. Shoes may be expensive but they are just objects and as such they are replaceable, so don't go bonkers and start chasing your dog around the house in a dog keep-away game. Some dogs may become protective over shoes this way. Following are several tips and ideas to stop your dog from chewing shoes.

  • Teething puppy? If you don't want your puppy to chew on your shoes, the solution is easy: keep those shoes out of the way. And if you want to do your puppy a big favor, try offering this instead: get a clean wash rag and wet it, wring it out and twist into a rope-like shape, then freeze it and offer it to your pooch. The cold temperature and texture will be greatly appreciated!
  • Bored dog? If your dog chews on your shoes due to boredom, don't blame him. Next time, keep those shoes out of reach and don't forget to provide your dog with more exercise and mental stimulation through brain games, interactive toys and safe items he can chew on. 
  • Anxious dog? If your dog chews as a way to release stress, you may want to find out what triggers the stress in the first place. Perhaps, there noises that bother him or he is suffering from anxiety when left alone. Nowadays, there are several calming aids made just for dogs to help them better cope with anxiety and stress.
  • Does your dog crave attention? Help your pal by giving him something to do. Play a game of fetch, take him on a brisk evening walk or engage him in a puzzle game or training session. Also, you may want to consider enrolling your dog in dog day care or hiring a dog walker or a pet sitter to keep him more occupied and less lonely during the day.
  • Caught your dog in the act? Instead of getting upset, grab several high-value treats (or even better, a stuffed Kong filled with goodies) and calmly trade the shoe for the treats/Kong. To be extra safe, just toss the treats/Kong the opposite way as you retrieve the shoe. Then, make a mental note to simply keep your footwear out of reach next time you're not around to actively supervise.
  • Finally, limit access to shoes when you cannot supervise. Make sure though that you leave around items he can safely chew on. 
  • And if you want to teach your dog to leave your shoes alone when you are around, you may find it helpful teaching the leave it and drop it cues.