You get home after a long, hard day. All you really want to do is slip your tired feet into your nice comfy slippers. The only problem is that you can’t find them, because it appears that, once again, your playful pup has run off with them.
Why do dogs steal slippers? It’s usually about more than just a love of things soft or fluffy. It’s often a cry for help, because your furkid is bored, stressed out and would like you to do something about it.
However, just what you do about it will take a little analysis and careful observation of your dog, because they may be making off with your slippers to try to tell you one od any number of things.
The playful puppy stage
If your dog is still a puppy, then it’s actually not likely that their slipper stealing behavior is any more than just cute puppy stuff. Little dogs are just learning about their world and, like human kids often do, they learn with all of their senses, including their mouth. They also need something soft to chew on as their teeth develop (again, just like a human baby) and your slippers are the ideal, easy to find choice if they don’t have a teething toy of their own (and even often if they do)
The fact that the slipper smells like you is another reason your puppy might steal your slippers. They haven’t long been separated from their mother and most young dogs instinctively miss that connection. So your slipper may be making a great stand in.
Watching a puppy bumble off down the hallway with your slipper is cute. It’s fun.It’ll make a great shot for Instagram. And it’s something to be expected. It’s just a puppy thing, like having little accidents on the floor as they begin to learn that the house is not their bathroom. The problem is if the slipper stealing stage continues into adulthood. Then it can, admittedly, become pretty annoying.
Adult dogs and slipper stealing
Once a dog ‘grows up’ (after his first birthday has been properly celebrated) slipper stealing stops being so cute and many owners become frustrated. When you have to lock your slippers away in a closet and can’t leave them out for more than a minute it’s an annoyance. And if your pup does get hold of them and chews them to bits it becomes an expensive annoyance at that.
How do I stop my dog stealing my slippers?
According to vets and animal behavior experts there’s a very good chance that the slipper thefts – and resulting destruction – is a result of instinctive behavior and that is a more complex problem to solve. Sure, you can ensure that you don’t ever leave your slippers out and use that tactic to stop the behavior but the chances are that they’ll just move on to your shoes instead. The real key to stopping your furkid from stealing your slippers is to figure out why they are doing it in the first place.
‘Hunter’ dogs and stolen slippers
Some breeds of dog are born hunters. Others are born retrievers. Although they may have never been near a forest, wood or other hunting ground in their life – or even seen another animal – the instinct to hunt and retrieve in order to please a human is often embedded in their DNA. So, lacking anything else to stalk they stalk your slippers.
The list of dog breeds this applies to is more extensive than you might think. There are the obvious one – the retrievers – both golden and labrador, the beagles, the collies – but did you know that dachshunds were originally bred to hunt and retrieve rodents and rabbits? Or that jack russell terrier has in in him to be one of the best bird dogs ever (because that is what they were originally bred to do)? If you haven’t already take some time to research your dog’s breed, it may be that the slipper stealing is little more than his attempt at suburban hunting.
Keeping hunter dogs away from slippers
So, how do you keep a hunter dog away from your slippers? Give them something else to exercise their instincts on. We are not suggesting that you immediately have to take up hunting though. Instead, you need to occupy him and use up some of that energy (hunting dogs were bred to run for hours) and let him exercise his instincts in a different way. Here are just a few suggestions:
Buy the right toys
Head into any pet store – or browse to any pet supplies retailer online – and you’ll quickly find that there are dozens and dozens of dog toys to choose from. But the fact is that some of those toys are better suited to hunter/retriever dogs than others. These include all of the following:
- Fetch toys, both balls and discs
- Squeaker toys / knotted toys
- Tug toys
- Chew toys
- Floating toys
- Shed antler retriever training tools
- Dummy toys
When you are shopping for toys remember to take your dog’s size and chewing habits into account. Some of the smaller, flimsier toys probably won’t last for more than a few days (or even hours) in the paws and jaws of a larger dog, so do a little research to find out which options are rated the ‘toughest’.
Make sure they are getting enough exercise
As we mentioned, hunter and retriever dogs were bred to run and run. And even though you might live in the middle of a big city rather than out in the woods their ancestors (your pup) still have the instinct – and the energy – to do so, so it’s crucial that they get enough exercise.
If you don’t always have the time for long walks – and your dog is relatively well behaved a run in the yard – a well fenced in area – can be a good solution. Just make sure that you do not send them out when the weather is too cold or that they are not left out there when no one is home. No yard? Most towns and cities these days offer fenced in dog parks where your dog can run to his heart’s content and you don’t have to trail him for miles in order for him to do so.
Slipper stealing and the lonely dog
Remember when we mentioned that a puppy may steal slippers because they miss their Mom? When you adopt a dog they become a part of your family and in their mind your become their new parent. If you are gone a lot – at work perhaps – and they are alone a slipper that has your smell may still be a big comfort. But a lonely dog is not a happy dog, so doing something to alleviate that loneliness is a must.
As much as we would all like to stay home with our dogs every day, the fact is that most of the time that simply is not possible. You have to leave for work or school or to run errands and separation happens. A lonely dog – or to use the correct term a dog suffering from separation anxiety – won’t immediately understand that of course. But there are some things you can do that will help make daily parting a lot easier for him (and potentially save your slippers)
Create a dog friendly zone
Often, if a dog has their own ‘safe zone’ to retreat to they are very good and occupying and comforting themselves until you return. And why not? Kids love to be in their bedroom where it’s warm and safe right? It only makes sense that your furkid would enjoy such a set up as well.
What should this space contain? Here are some suggestions:
- A crate, but only if you are actively training. If not, a dog gate – or a repurposed baby gate – as long as your pup is not a big jumper – is a good alternative.
- Comfort items – One of your old, unlaundered shirts or even yes, an old slipper. Adding a blanket or two is not a bad idea either.
- A comfy mattress or dog bed. Sleeping their time away for at least part of the time your away will make things better for your dog, but they should be given a safe, comfortable place of their own to do so.
- Safe bone chews like Nylabones. Some chews and bones (especially smaller ones) can pose a choking hazard and should not be given unsupervised. A Nylabone is usually safe however to leave most dogs alone with.
- A puzzle toy. There are lots of great, safe puzzle toys for dogs out there and they can be of a great help to keep your pup’s mind occupied while you are gone.
Create some background noise
If a dog suffers from separation anxiety strange noises – from both inside and outside their home – can really upset them. The simple act of leaving the radio or TV on when you leave creates background noise that can help drown those sounds out while also making the dog feel less uncomfortable with the fact that everything is so unusually quiet.
Consider a part-time pet sitter
If you are gone at work or school all day it is probably hard for you to simply pop home at lunchtime to say hi to your anxious pooch (but if you can you probably should) What you could consider is hiring someone to come in for just a short time every day to do that for you. It might be a small extra expense sure but if it makes your dog happier – and keeps your slippers safer while also giving you a little extra piece of mind – then it is quite possibly well worth it.
What if I’ve tried everything and my pup is still a slipper stealer?
So you’ve tried it all and your pup still sneaks away with slippers whenever they have a chance. Then it is probably time to get some professional help. Cesar Milan can’t be everywhere though, so you’ll need to look for dog training classes locally.
The good news is that these classes are no longer hard to find or even that expensive. For example, Petco – one of the nation’s largest pet supply chains – offers group training classes in most of their stores at a very nominal cost, and many smaller pet stores do the same. Some vets offices also offer pet training classes at a very reasonable price.
If you have the time and the patience you can even try your hand at training your dog yourself. The Internet is actually filled with great dog training resources and in addition to gaining a better behaved, better adjusted and happier pup – and saving your slippers – you’ll also be gaining a valuable new skill yourself.
Do dogs really get bored?
Absolutely. And that boredom can lead to destructive behavior like stealing and chewing slippers too. Dogs are intelligent creatures and they need mental stimulation as much as human kids – or you – do. And while you can’t really relieve that boredom in the same way as you might with your kids – they are notoriously bad at board games and their paws slip off video game controllers – you can find a number of educational toys for dogs that present quite a challenge.
On a final note. One of the best things you can do for your slipper stealing dog is give them as much attention as you can. But not just by petting them more. Get out for more walks together. Actively play with them and their toys. Talk to them, they love it (although they may or may not understand) and take their slipper stealing episodes as a blessing not a curse as by taking the time to work through the issues behind it you will create a much better relationship with your dog, which is just what he wants.