The Pet Scoop: Stopping the shoe-chewing Cocker Spaniel

My wife used to let our Cocker Spaniel chew on her old high heels when he was a puppy. Now, as you can imagine, we’ve got a real problem on our hands. Is there anything we can do to break him of this habit, or are we pretty much screwed?

Bill McQuade and his dog, Purdy.

Bill says: The best solution is actually quite simple. Put your shoes away where your dog cannot get to them. If you insist on leaving them on the floor, make sure it is in your bedroom and you close the door.

If you and your wife cannot manage to put your shoes away when you take them off, you may not have the perseverance it will take to train your dog, but here goes. Get some really good training treats. They need to be healthful and tiny treats, as you will be giving your dog quite a few. Little pieces of cheese or my preference, Zukes Training Treats, designed for just this purpose, are great.

Place the shoe on the floor, and kneel or sit close to it. Make sure you have a handful of treats in one hand. As your dog reaches for the shoe, put your hand over it and give the command “leave it” (I prefer using a very emphatic tone in a slightly raised voice). Then, offer a treat and praise with a very approving tone. Remove your hand and as your dog reaches for the shoe again, repeat the “leave it” command and offer the treat and praise. Repeat this exercise three or four times, then put the shoe (or whatever object the dog desires) away. Repeat the training with at least an hour break between sessions, until your dog starts to ignore the shoe and looks to you for the treat. Then try different tempting objects, like a bone or a piece of meat, and follow the same method.

The next step is testing and reinforcing. Place the shoe on the floor where your dog will see it as he enters the room. Remain out of sight, and as your dog heads toward the shoe, step out, command “leave it,” and reward your dog with a treat. Test with different high value objects.

A pop quiz could include dropping a piece of steak on the floor. As your dog approaches it, tell him to “leave it.” If he does, reward with a high value treat and lots of over the top praise. When your dog is home alone I suggest restricting your dog to a small section of your home and providing something safe to chew on. My favorite is the almost indestructible Everlasting Treat Ball.

Purdy says: Put your shoes in the closet or at least in your bedroom and close the door. And I am supposed to be the dumb animal! Oh, by the way, “leave it” is not my favorite command. Better make it an order and not a request.

If you have a question for Bill, email it to bill(at)

Bill McQuade is the owner of The Whole Pet, located at 2423 N. College Ave. in Fayetteville. The Whole Pet specializes in nutrition for cats and dogs and offers a wide variety of quality diets in raw frozen, cans and kibble. The store also offers affordable, unique and high quality pet supplies and accessories. Bill is a professional dog handler, and has worked in the pet care business since 1972.