Dog Training/7 month old retriever with sock problem
We got the most wonderful golden retriever 5 months ago named Summer and she had quickly become my constant companion. I'm becoming honestly scared, however. Ever since she was tiny she has had a thing for eating socks. They always seem to get thrown up, and her eating and drinking habits never change so I suppose that's a good sign regarding blockages, but its still scary. I thought I had become the worlds best sock picker upper. I check the floors constantly and never throw mine around, and never let her around the laundry when I'm carrying things incase something drops. Problem is, she just threw up two of them in a row tonight. I'm devastated! I'm so confused that my vigilance isn't solving the issue,and I'm scared I'll lose her! I suppose my question is, is there any active training I can do with her? Like teaching her to "leave it" with socks? If she continues to do it somehow, is there any possibility of her outgrowing this habit some day? Thank you.
Hi Gina. Pica can be a very serious issue. It's not likely she will outgrow this and it's possible that it could turn into a more serious problem if she starts eating things that can't be easily thrown up, like rocks.
Be sure that Summer is getting enough mental stimulation and physical exercise during the day. Join a local training class that offers clicker training to find a fun way to communicate with the dog. Here's a list of the best places to find a good trainer/class:
Teaching "leave it" is a great idea and I can point you to the best videos on the web for how to teach the technique. Go to YouTube and search on "Kikopup leave it". Emily Larlham (Kikopup) has a variety of videos on this skill. If you don't have any background in clicker training, just say the word "YES!" where she clicks. Be sure your food reward value is high. You have to have something she loves just as much as a sock. Rewards should be small tidbits, no bigger than a pea.
And when you work on this skill, I would recommend NOT starting with a full size sock. Start with something altogether different so Summer learns a solid response to this cue before you even introduce the sock to the training scenario. Then, make it the smallest approximation you can that still resembles a sock - maybe a cut of piece of the tube or the toe. Then gradually work up to a full sized sock. I would also douse the sock with Bitter Apple, or any other taste-deterrent.
In addition, you should teach "drop it". Here's a video of my favorite way to teach this skill: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndTiVOCNY4M
If this behavior gets worse and starts to spread to other objects, see your vet about a referral to a qualified behaviorist in your area.
Please let me know if you have questions after watching these videos. Good luck.