You might be one of those people who doesn’t mind a mess in the home. Or perhaps you have kids who don’t. There are shoes, clothes, books, and stuff all over the house. You might just have a designated corner in your room for dirty laundry instead of having a hamper. Whether you make Mary Poppins proud with your cleaning habits or you terrify the Disney character, your dog manages to find your clothes and sits on them. It could be your hoody, pants, socks, even underwear. Sometimes they’re dirty clothes, sometimes they’re fresh out of the dryer. Either way, he happily makes a bed and claims the article or articles of clothing as his.
The Root of the Behavior
If your dog is claiming your clothes, he must really like you. A dog’s nose is one of his strongest senses and by smelling, he picks up tons of information, from what you’ve eaten that day to where you’ve been. Your dog can distinguish your scent out of a crowd and if he likes you, he likes your scent. Your dirty clothes are filled with your sweat and scent and he likes that more than clean ones, but a dog has about 300 million olfactory receptors, so he can smell scents left in clothing that we think our machines got out. To you, a freshly washed soccer jersey might smell like a field of flowers, but to him, it still smells like that game from last week. If your dog is sitting on your clothing when you’re not home or are sleeping, he probably misses you. He is using your scent to feel closer to you. Some dogs have been found to sit on clothing and whine when their human friend is gone for long periods of time. Just like a baby, your dog clings on to anything familiar to calm himself down. Scent is powerful and comes associated with information and memories, so to him, your smelly old sweatshirt is great comfort.
Not only do your clothes have your scent, but they’re comfortable. Humans get to wear soft, fluffy, and luxurious fabrics that we would never adorn a dog with. If your dog is really looking for comfort, he might opt for some velour pants or fleece sweatshirts. If you have hardwood floors with lots of clothes spread out on the floor, you give your dog plenty of opportunity to sit on your stuff rather than the cold hardwood. Your dog has his scent too, and by sitting on your clothing, he could also be trying to spread his scent. He is subtly leaving his mark and saying, “This is mine now, too!”
Encouraging the Behavior
Letting your dog sit on your clothing is a preference of each owner. Your dog might be comforted by the scent on your sweater when you’re at work or away for vacation, but there could be some downsides to letting your dog sit on your clothing. You might think dirty clothes are fine for him to sit on; they’re going in the wash anyway. This is true and will not cause you to do extra laundry. But what happens when you’re folding laundry and you take a bathroom break? You come back to a happy puppy sitting in some ocean breeze scented clothing. Your freshly washed laundry may need to be washed again.
If your dog thinks this behavior is okay, he might sit on your clothes when you’re not home. Before you leave for work, you lay an outfit on your bed for an evening party because you know you’ll only have a few minutes to change. When you come home, your outfit is wrinkled and smells like your dog. You don’t have time to wash it and you can’t go to the party smelling like dog. Your dog might miss you when you’re out of the house and you might miss him, but while your dog wants to smell you when you’re gone, you don’t want to smell your dog.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If you think your dog misses you when you’re not home, set aside a blanket or article of clothing just for him. Use an old t-shirt if you have one. Make sure he knows this is his and he can sit on it. Then, train him to not sit on clothes, even if they’re on the bed or on the floor. A trainer can help teach him commands and work with you to be consistent. Consistent training is key.
And that training doesn’t just relate to your dog. There’s nothing wrong with a mess as long as you are happy and healthy, but when you are training your dog not to do something, it’s much harder if the temptation is there. It’s like dieting and leaving chocolate bars on the counter, in the fridge, in the cabinets, and on the coffee table. Sure, you need to exercise self-control, but wouldn’t it be easier if they were put away and you only saw them if you opened a cabinet? Help your dog out and try to keep your clothes away. Give him his one item and keep his training consistent.
You and your dog might like the finer things in life, which is why he chooses to sit on that new cashmere sweater. Put away your clothes if you do not want your dog sitting on them and give him his own memento so he can be comforted by you when you are not home.