How to Train Your Dog to Not Eat Clothes

Medium
2-4 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

You've heard the expression “eating you out of house and home”. What if your dog is eating you out of socks and underwear? Although having your dog chew on your clothes or leather shoes is not uncommon, what does it mean, and what do you do, when your dog is actually eating your clothes? 

Odd as it sounds, some dogs actually eat their owner's clothing items. Ingesting your clothing may be a natural progression from chewing on and playing with your clothing to accidentally or purposely swallowing these items to avoid having them taken away. Usually, this strange, and dangerous, habit starts because your dog has decided he likes the taste of your socks or underwear--they smell like you, or may have salt or other fluids on them that your dog likes the taste of (yuck!).  It is also possible, although rare, that your dog might be suffering from a nutritional deficiency, parasites, or a digestive disorder that has started his clothes eating habit. Sometimes dogs that are bored or anxious may develop a compulsive disorder known as pica, where they start eating non food items. If a medical condition, compulsion, or severe anxiety disorder is thought to play a factor you should take your dog to the veterinarian and explain the issue. Medical conditions should be ruled out and medications to curb compulsive disorder and anxiety may be appropriate in some cases.

Defining Tasks

Besides being expensive and greatly increasing your sock and underwear budget, ingested articles of clothing can cause blockages that can result in serious illness and even death in your dog if not addressed. If a serious digestive system blockage occurs, your dog may require emergency surgery to remove the blockage. Because of the imminent danger to your dog, you and your family members need to take precautions if you have a clothing-eating dog, to ensure that the dog does not have access to items of clothing he could ingest. Dirty clothes should be kept in a closed laundry hamper, or put in a laundry room with a closed door. However, you cannot always control the environment and remove access to these hazards from your dog all the time, so training your dog to stop eating your clothes will be necessary to stop this dangerous habit.

Getting Started

Prior to training, you will need treats for teaching your dog to 'leave it', and chew toys to replace clothes-eating behavior. You will need to supervise your dog and not allow access to clothes during the training period to make sure that commands are given when appropriate, and that your dog does not get to play with, chew, or ingest clothing items during training, which will only reinforce the clothes-eating behavior.  Several methods that can be used individually or in conjunction are available to curb clothes eating behavior.

The Leave It Method

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Step
1
Hold treat in closed hand
Hold a treat in your closed hand and hold it out towards your dog. When your dog sniffs your hand, firmly and calmly say “leave it”.
Step
2
Command 'leave it'
Wait until the dog stops investigating and trying to reach the treat. Say “yes” and offer the treat. Occasionally hold the treat out in a closed fist, let your dog investigate and give her the treat without saying “leave it”, to establish it is only when you say “leave it” that your dog needs to retreat from the item.
Step
3
Leave treat on floor
Start putting treats on the floor and giving the 'eave it', command. Use relatively plain treats. When your dog obeys the 'leave it' command, reward her with a much better treat, like a piece of hot dog or chicken.
Step
4
Repeat and reinforce
Conduct the exercise in various places around the house or outside. Leave "bait" in strategic places and when your dog discovers them, give the 'leave it' command. When she leaves the discovered treat alone, reward with a better treat, then gradually replace treats with praise and attention.
Step
5
Apply to clothing items
Use the 'leave it' command when your dog approaches an item of clothing strategically left out for her. Having established the 'leave it' command, your dog should leave the clothing item. Be sure to reward her for complying. Repeat this with several clothing items over a period of several weeks until your dog learns to leave clothing items alone.
Recommend training method?

The Claim Your Clothes Method

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Step
1
Watch and wait
Leave a piece of clothing out where your dog can find it. Supervise closely.
Step
2
Block
When your dog approaches the piece of clothing, block him by inserting your body between the clothing and your dog. Give a 'leave it' command or a firm “No”.
Step
3
Push away
Tap your dog on the side or push him away with your body to exert leadership and claim your clothing item.
Step
4
Provide alternative
When your dog backs away from the clothing, praise him and give him an alternate chew item or a treat. Encourage and praise him for leaving the clothes and chewing the appropriate item.
Step
5
Establish
Repeat this process multiple times over several weeks. Maintain separation of your dog and clothing when unsupervised.
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The Establish Alternative Method

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Step
1
Provide appropriate toys
From as early an age as possible, develop a toy habit with your dog by providing lots of attractive toys and chew toys. Do not use household items or clothes, like shoes or old slippers, or anything resembling personal or household items.
Step
2
Make toys interactive
Fill hollow, rubber toys with food at mealtime or use puzzle feeders to encourage appropriate investigating activity.
Step
3
Reinforce appropriate toys
Provide rawhide bones and incorporate them into play. Pet and pay attention to your dog while he chews on his appropriate toy to encourage chew toy behavior.
Step
4
Encourage activity
Provide other toys, such as balls, to keep your dog active and entertained, so he will not become bored and be tempted to transfer his attention to clothing or other inappropriate household items to entertain himself. Play with and exercise your dog extensively and use appropriate chew items as part of play and exercise to reinforce what your dog is allowed to chew on.
Step
5
Prevent clothing access
If your dog is eating clothing. keep him away from clothing during the reorienting process. Keep clothing put away in locked rooms, drawers, closets, or hampers until a new chewing habit is established.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Laurie Haggart

Published: 11/13/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Scooter
Terrier mix
13 Years
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Question
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Scooter
Terrier mix
13 Years

My boyfriend and I both work and he eats our clothes and lick everything obviously all the time. I try to prevent him and it still happens. I’ve tried calling chews and anxiety chew it doesn’t help. He even does it when we r home

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1107 Dog owners recommended

Hello Savannah, I suspect the behavior may be obsessive compulsive. First, I would speak with your vet to see if there is anything they recommend. I would continue to offer interesting things for pup to chew and lick instead - like stuffing kongs with kibble and dog treats. You can even turn kibble into mush by adding water and having it sit out, then mix a little soft cheese or peanut butter or liver paste (choose whatever pup tolerates best if they have a sensitive stomach like many older dogs, which is often the liver), into the mush, poke a straw through the kong and put the mush around the straw, then freeze, and remove from the freezer, removing the straw before giving to pup, whenever you need to entertain pup. The hole from the straw prevents suction. You can freeze several ahead of time for the week then just grab from the freezer as needed. Other good ways to keep pup busy are puzzle toys and treat dispensing devices like kong wobble, pet tutor, or autotrainer. With an obsessive compulsive behavior if that's what it is, you also need to teach pup a stop command, in this case Leave It, reward pup when they choose a more appropriate outlet or are acting calm in general - like when pup lays down on their dog bed and isn't licking, or when pup is chewing a kong instead of licking, and interrupt the compulsive behavior so that pup no longer finds it satisfying. I would hire a professional trainer to help with the interruptions. In most cases the interruption needs to be associated with the behavior and not just you, since its mostly happening while you are away, so that means correcting with a remote training collar. I would choose a high quality collar with at least 60 levels, vibration, and tone. Which option you use will depend on what pup responds to best. Only use a high quality collar with subtle levels not a three level intense shock collar - remote training collar/e-collars aren't the same as a basic three level shock collar. After working on Leave It and practicing and rewarding obedience for that while you are home - so pup understands the expectation and what you want, then you would correct for the licking, at first while you are present and you would calmly tell pup "Ah Ah" or "No" while correction; then you would tell pup "Leave It", rewarding pup if they continue to not lick, and offer a toy to chew instead. The combination helps replace that licking with something more appropriate instead of pup just feeling anxious that they can't lick anymore but they don't know what to do instead. Leave It section: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Marshall
beagle/chihuahua
7 Months
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Question
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Marshall
beagle/chihuahua
7 Months

Even when presented with toys and treats, Marshall still favor clothing above all else.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1107 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sadie, Check out the article I have linked below on chewing. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ I would crate pup while you are away at this age, in addition to making pup's own toys more enticing by stuffing hollow durable toys with dog food, keeping clothing out of pup's reach, then choosing a few specific items that are okay to get ruined and I would booby trap those items by leaving those around while you spy on pup with a camera from another room, either soaking the items in vinegar then letting them dry, so they taste bitter, placing something like a scat mat or Snap Trap under them, or using a remote collar with proper supervision to surprise pup when they try to touch the clothing. Work on teaching pup to leave clothes in general alone also, by practicing the Leave It method from the article I have linked below with clothing. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Summer
Labrador Retriever
7 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Summer
Labrador Retriever
7 Weeks

She keeps on biting things. She doesn’t know that her bite is causing harm to people, random furnitures, and herself

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1107 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jason, Check out the article linked below. Starting today, use the "Bite Inhibition" method. BUT at the same time, begin teaching "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method. As soon as pup is good as the Leave It game, start telling pup to "Leave It" when she attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if she makes a good choice. If she disobeys your leave it command, use the Out command from the second article linked below to make her leave the area as a consequence. The order or all of this is very important - the Bite Inhibition method can be used for the next couple of weeks while pup is learning leave it, but leave it will teach pup to stop the biting entirely. The Out method teaches pup that you mean what you say without being overly harsh - but because you have taught pup to leave it first, pup clearly understands that you are not just playing (which is what pup probably thinks most of the time right now), so it is more effective. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the area, is also a good command for you to use if pup bites the kids. Check out the section on Using Out to Deal with Pushy Behavior for how to calmly enforce that command once it's taught. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Another important part of this is puppy learning bite inhibition. Puppies have to learn while young how to control the pressure of their mouths - this is typically done through play with other puppies. See if there is a puppy class in your area that comes well recommended and has time for moderated off-leash puppy play. If you can't join a class, look for a free puppy play group, or recruit some friends with puppies to come over if you can and create your own group. You are looking for puppies under 6 months of age - since young puppies play differently than adult dogs. Right now, an outside class may be best in a fenced area, or letting friends' pups play in someone's fence outside. Moderate the puppies' play and whenever one pup seems overwhelmed or they are all getting too excited, interrupt their play, let everyone calm down, then let the most timid pup go first to see if they still want to play - if they do, then you can let the other puppies go too when they are waiting for permission. Finding a good puppy class - no class will be ideal but here's what to shoot for: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ When pup gets especially wound up, she probably needs a nap too. At this age puppies will sometimes get really hyper when they are overtired or haven't had any mental stimulation through something like training. When you spot that and think pup could be tired, place pup in their crate or an exercise pen with a food stuffed Kong for a bit to help her calm down and rest. Practicing regular obedience commands or having pup earn what they get by performing commands like Sit and Down before feeding, petting, tossing a toy, opening the door for a walk, ect... can also help stimulate pup mentally to increase calmness and wear them out. Commands that practice focus, self-control, and learning something a bit new or harder than before can all tire out puppies. For the chewing of objects, check out this article: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ Finally, check out the PDF e-book downloads found on this website, written by one of the founders of the association of professional dog trainers, and a pioneer in starting puppy kindergarten classes in the USA. Click on the pictures of the puppies to download the PDF books: https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Know that mouthiness at this age is completely normal. It's not fun but it is normal for it to take some time for a puppy to learn self-control well enough to stop. Try not to get discouraged if you don't see instant progress, any progress and moving in the right direction in this area is good, so keep working at it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Bellamie
Goldendoodle
1 Year
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Question
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Bellamie
Goldendoodle
1 Year

Hi my dog likes to take clothes and trash and anything that she can pick up easily. She’s very destructive and will eat anything she can get her mouth on and no matter how much I punish her for it she turns around and does it again even when she knows she’s not supposed to. How do we get her to stop?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1107 Dog owners recommended

Hello Miranda, First, the need for chewing is related to her age and her breed combination, so she is going to need to chew still. The goal should be directing that chewing to appropriate things, limiting access to your things until a new good habit of chewing only her things is established, and interrupting the chewing even when she thinks you aren't there. This will take a combination of training techniques. Check out the article I have linked below. There you will find a section on how to teach Leave It - start working on Leave It. You will also find information about crate training - when you can't supervise pup, crate pup right now. I would also provide pup with a dog food stuffed chew toy more often - I such as kongs, to encourage pup to chew those instead, especially while crated, since that can be a good time for pup to learn. Finally, interrupt any chewing that pup does try to do under your supervision. When you are around, use Leave It, but also set up deterrents that aren't associated with you. The simplest way to do this is by using something like Bitter Apple spray or white vinegar on commonly chewed items. If pup is jumping up on counters to steal things to chew, you can use something like a scat mat. For more extreme cases, a camera can be set up, pup can be trained to associate an e-collar vibration or tone with the Leave It command, then corrected on a low stimulation level, that's been predetermined as pup's correct "working level" if pup doesn't leave it when warned with the collar. This can help pup understand that leave it applis to your objects even when you aren't in the room. Chewing article: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ To stuff a Kong/hollow chew toy, you can either put dry kibble in and cover half of the opening with a larger treat wedged in, so that only a couple of pieces of dog food fall out at a time, or you can make a time released frozen treat for hard chewers. Place pup's food in a bowl with water the night before. Let the food turn to mush, poke a straw through the Kong's holes, loosely stuff the mush around the straw, freeze the entire thing, then remove the straw and give it to her in the early evening. Add a bit of peanut butter or liver paste to the mush if she needs help being interested in it - don't pack it tightly or she won't be able to get it out. You can make several of these ahead of time to have on hand, stored in the freezer. Just subtract the food in the kong from her dinner kibble amount, to avoid overfeeding Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Chloe
Chiweenie
6 Years
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Question
0 found helpful
Chloe
Chiweenie
6 Years

shes been eating clothes for 4 yrs now , she was a rescue , we got her at 2 yr old, and shes been eating them ever since, as of today, 7-17/2021, in 3 months shes eatne almost 7 pr of my pants and countless other items, we dont leave clothes out, shes huntin them out of baskets and drawers, we have no idea what to do now

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1107 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mali, At this point is sounds like its become a long term habit, and possibly even an obsession. I would start by proactively practicing Leave It with articles of clothing. Check out the Leave It method from the article I have linked below. This is simply to make sure pup understands the rules and builds their self-control, so you can move onto the next part below. This is part one of the training. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Next, I would hire a professional trainer to do some remote collar training that involves strategically placing pieces of clothing out, setting up a camera to spy on pup, and correction pup with the remote training collar while outside while viewing from the camera, - so the correction is associated with pup touching the clothes and not just you being there. Since you have previously practiced Leave It pup should have gained the self-control needed to choose to leave the clothes alone, and an understanding that they aren't supposed to chew them, so that the correction doesn't just seem random to pup, but is associated with them putting their mouth on the clothes. The corrections should be done on low level stimulation, also called "working level". Each dog has their own working level so you will need to discover what level is appropriate for pup before correcting with it. Only use a high quality e-collars like e-collar technologies, Garmin, or Sportdog. Most quality collars also have a vibration setting. You can try that first if you wish. Some dogs won't respond to vibration, others will find it harsher than a low level stimulation, for others it's a perfect interrupter. It will depend on your dog. More information on chewing: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ Once the habit is interrupted, I would be sure to implement things like giving pup a dog food stuffed chew toy, to help pup replace that unwanted habit with a better one, to ensure the habit stays broken. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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