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Canine Behavior/My Dog Eats Socks

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Question
Hi,

I have a 5 month old Cane Corso (Italian mastiff) puppy that loves to eats socks, I mean not just a few she eats more like 10 socks a week. I know many people say to hide the socks, well even if we put them behind a door or in a hamper she will open them just to get the socks. The weird part is that she seems to only like worn and designer socks. Anyways, she passes them fine but occasionally throws some up. This makes me worry because I would hate to have to take her to the vet for surgery. Out of all the people in the household she only eats mine, and I am the person in the house that she is most attached to, I have no idea if the preceding sentence helps at all but I mentioned it just in case. If there is anything I can do to make her stop eating socks, please let me know.

Thanks,

Lauren

Answer
This is NOT a casual companion breed.  This breed requires a confident, fair owner who is experienced and willing to do a great deal of socialization AND exercise (depending on dog's orthopedic evaluation and age) with the dog/puppy/adolescent.  Destructiveness when left alone is COMMON.  It implies the possibility of developing separation anxiety issues, the lack of mental stimulation, a paucity of brain-enhancing training, insufficient socialization if left alone consistently for hours at a time and not taken "out" for exercise and habituation to persons, animals and things not seen from the backyard, etc.

Sock eating is potentially life threatening.  You MUST be certain this dog cannot get to your socks.  This is not an option.  The dog cannot be left at large in the home without supervision at five months of age.  This breed can develop a strong sense of guarding that will prove inappropriate (and possibly worse) as it develops into adulthood.  A young dog such as this should not feel the "need" to "guard" the home; this causes great anxiety and that is what prompts behavior such as you describe.

I suggest you do some research in your breed and find a POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT training venue where you and your dog can interact among other dogs and owners in a manner that enhances your dog's willingness to "work" for reward.  This will increase your social status to the dog and help the dog to feel less anxious.  When left alone, the dog should be confined to a safe and pleasant area indoors with a Buster Cube (a "toy" that dispenses food when rolled around).  I suggest you acquire some information  on how to increase this dog's cognition and willingness to "work" as a "team":
http://www.amazon.com/Brain-Games-Dogs-Provide-Stimulation/dp/1554074908/ref=pd_

You can learn about positive reinforcement training at Dr. Ian Dunbar's site and free online course:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_wBHZtwY7A&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajnqRlltR_Q&feature=related

Should this dog ingest string (from socks) that wraps around her stomach or intestines, by the time you realize she is sick it will not only be EXTREMELY expensive to surgically address but it might cause death, despite veterinary intervention.  You can easily keep a pillow case on a hook in your closet (behind the closed closet door) where you store your soiled socks and so can other family members.  The dog WILL move on to other negative behaviors if bored or anxious when left alone, so be certain to learn as much as you can now, before that happens, in order to avoid it.

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.

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I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.

Experience

30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for ThePetChannel.com for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, K9Shrinks@egroups.com. Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Organizations
Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Publications
Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Education/Credentials
Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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