Your dog sleeps on your shoes because they are available at floor height, they feel nice to sleep on, and they smell like you as well as your home and neighborhood. Your dog may sleep on the shoes wherever they are in the home or take them to their bed to sleep on.
Find out why your dog is sleeping on your shoes and whether you should allow it.
Your shoes are available
We take off our shoes and leave them on the floor, or, at best, on a shoe rack, often at dog height.
This is an open invitation for your dog to engage with your shoes in some way, including by sleeping on them.
Sleeping on shoes wherever they have been dropped on the floor is common. So is a dog carrying shoes to their bed and sleeping on them there.
It makes their bed feel more like a nest
Dogs in the wild will turn around and around in one spot, often in bushes or grasses, to make themselves a comfortable nest to sleep in.
These nests are still pretty lumpy, perhaps with twigs or uneven ground under them.
Adding your shoes to their bed might make their bed feel a bit more lumpy and textural, and this might be more of a satisfying feel to the dog.
They want to be involved in the household
Dogs are social animals. If they could, they would do what you do. So they like to “touch” – using their mouth – the things that we touch and use.
Your shoes are clearly essential in your life, so they are fascinating to dogs too.
Your scent is calming
Your shoes carry a mix of smells that represent home to your dog: the mixed scents of you, your yard, and your neighborhood.
Shoes carry perhaps the ultimate mix of calming and familiar scents to a dog – occurring together in one handy object.
Your scent is interesting
Dogs use their noses and mouths to find out about the world around them and the people in their world.
Human scents vary slightly every day, depending on factors like hormones, exercise levels, and even what we’ve had to eat. Every day, your shoes will carry a slightly different balance of your scents, and decoding this information is something dogs love.
They are soft, or hard, to lie on
Some dogs like soft objects to lie on, while others like harder things. Whether your shoes are a soft pair of slippers or a sturdy leather shoe, your dog might have found the texture that they enjoy lying on.
They are a good size and shape for a doggy pillow
Dogs will often rest their head on shoes. The shoes seem custom-made for the size of their heads and their long noses.
Their shape plus their enjoyable smell makes them a very attractive doggy pillow – much like a lavender pillow you might enjoy using.
They can lick the shoes or chew them
Having a shoe in a dog’s bed can be considered a comfort item, because it smells so much like home to them. An added attraction is that the dog has the option to lick them or chew them.
Licking and chewing are ways the dog takes in information. They are also calming behaviors for dogs, helping regulate their nervous system.
They are hoarding important objects
According to the American Kennel Club, dogs are instinctive hoarders.
When access to food was not regular in the wild, dogs would carry food back to their sleeping places, or bury it in other special places.
Your dog puts a special item in a meaningful place: their bed.
It feels and looks like their toys
A shoe is usually a similar size to many dog toys. It has a similar texture, being cloth or chewy material. It fits neatly into a dog’s mouth for carrying. So it’s easy for a dog to think that a shoe is another fun toy for dogs.
They are playing with you
Sometimes, it’s as simple as the dog deciding to initiate a game.
They take the shoe to their bed, and you come after them. There might even be a tug of war.
They might be a rescue dog who has lived through scarcity
If your dog has lived through a period of scarcity in their life, they generally never forget this.
Dogs who have gone without can tend to hide away objects that they don’t want to lose.
They are resource guarding
Resource guarding is a more active behavior than simply carrying items around. Some dogs can be triggered into borderline aggressive behavior towards anyone who takes “their” things.
If your dog takes your shoes to their bed, then growls, nips, or stands stiffly when the shoes are taken back, they may be resource guarding.
This can be a severe problem, and you should consult a dog behaviorist, trainer, or vet.
Why Does My Dog Lie on My Shoes and Not My Husband’s?
Your shoes might be a better size for the dog, or feel like a better texture in their mouth or lying under their face. They might feel better to lay on in bed.
Can I Stop My Dog from Sleeping on My Shoes?
Given all the reasons that shoes are very attractive pillows or bedding for dogs, it’s a difficult task to stop them from sleeping on your shoes.
Whether you try to train them not to sleep on your shoes is up to you.
It’s natural for a dog to want objects that strongly carry your scent. This makes them feel at home and secure in a family. You might decide that it’s a harmless behavior that you can live with.
Is It Safe for My Dog to Lie on My Shoes?
Apart from squashing the shoes, it may be safe or unsafe, depending on the dog. If your dog is likely to chew bits off the shoes, it could be dangerous for them to swallow those bits.
The dog might nibble off exciting pieces include buckles, shoelace ends, tassels, or other decorative pieces. Make an assessment depending on the tendency of your individual dog.
How Can I Stop My Dog from Sleeping on My Shoes?
Put the shoes away
When you consider that shoes are generally on the floor or a shoe rack within reach of the dog, it’s not really fair to expect them to know not to take shoes or use them.
If you don’t want your dog sleeping on your shoes, put the shoes away out of sight. This is a quick and easy fix. Remember, though, that your dog may still want to be allowed to have objects that have your scent on them.
Keeping a blanket, old jacket, or soft toy on your bed or couch for a week or two, then letting the dog have it in their bed or crate, can be a way to share objects with your scent.
This is calming for your dog and meets their need to feel part of the sensory environment of the home and family.
Getting the shoes back from the dog
If you find yourself in a situation where your dog is holding the shoe you need, offer the dog a trade. Don’t get into a tug of war.
The trade will have to be a tempting one, like a significant treat.
Praise your dog when they let the shoe go.
Give more mental stimulation and exercise
Another helpful strategy is to allow the dog more walks where they go at their own pace, smelling all the important scents they are interested in.
According to dog behaviorists, half the benefit of exercise is the mental stimulation of sniffing all around the neighborhood.