The Reason Your Dog Loves Stealing Your Shoes

Fine shoe dining.
Fine shoe dining. / GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Stone via Getty Images

There’s a good reason pet owners can sometimes be late for work. There’s a very real possibility their dog has run off with their shoe.

This tendency for dogs to steal, chew, and eventually stuff their snout in the shoe while dozing off is common across breeds and temperaments. So why do dogs have a foot fetish?

Why a dog cherishes your disgusting footwear can depend on the pet's age. Puppies who gnaw on shoes are probably doing it because they’re teething and the soft rubber or leather feels pleasant. Because puppies find relief, they tend to make a habit of it.

For adult dogs, however, the motivation is more varied. For one thing, shoes are easily accessible. They’re usually found at ground level, making it easy for a dog to case the scene, grab the shoe, and sprint off. From there, shoes become a kind of sensory experience. They have their owner’s scent as well as smells that have been transported from walking in other areas. It’s kind of a dog travelogue, with the pet able to explore where someone has been. The more pungent, the better.

Dogs might fall asleep next to a shoe for the same olfactory reason. Because it smells familiar, it’s comforting.

Shoes can get mangled in the process, so it’s something most owners try to discourage. Making sure a dog gets plenty of exercise to stave off boredom is one way to keep them away from shoes. So is locking footwear inside a closet while providing alternative chew toys, much like an ex-smoker takes up toothpicks. If the chewing is excessive, it might indicate anxiety or hunger.

Does any of this apply to cats? While they’re not prone to stealing shoes, they can definitely be found nearby. Sometimes, the cat is looking to spread its pheromones, which is why they’ll rub their head against your Air Jordans. Shoelaces provide stimulation since they’re easy to nibble and move unpredictably. If you happen to be wearing the shoes while the cat is interacting with them, it could be an indication they want attention.

[h/t Cesar’s Way]