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.
Recommend training method?

The Establish Alternative Method

Effective
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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?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Alamo
Golden Retriever
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Alamo
Golden Retriever
6 Months

Alamo is a sweet dog, but I'm having some issues training him. He constantly gets socks and underwear from the laundry basket or the closet and destroys them. He also doesn't seem to learn how to be leash trained.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
396 Dog owners recommended

Hello Bruna, Since Alamo is still a puppy and is in the height of the chewing stage, it's not surprising that he is stealing socks and underwear. I suggest teaching him a solid "Leave It" command and after he learns how to leave treats alone, practice with underwear and socks. It is important when you teach "Leave It" to never give him the treats that you have told him to leave alone, but instead to reward him with other treats, because you do not want him to expect to get whatever he was told to leave, you want him to give up on that item and forget about it. To teach "Leave It" check out the training article bellow: https://wagwalking.com/training/leave-it Also work on teaching him "Drop" so that he does not grab items just to get you to chase him. After he learns to drop something, then when he obeys your drop command, give him one of his own toys to chew on instead. Exchanging the sock for his own toy will help him to learn that grabbing socks is not a fun chase game, it is boring, that he does not have to be afraid of you taking items from him, and that chew toys are the acceptable item to chew. A Golden Retriever at six months of age HAS to chew. To teach him not to chew is almost impossible, so the goal is to teach him WHAT to chew, which is his own toys. When you want him to settle down in a crate or on his bed, then stuff a Kong chew toy or other hollow chew toy with his own dog food, and a bit of peanut butter if you wish. Have him go into his crate or onto his bed and then give him the toy. To make the stuffed Kong more challenging, you can also place his food into a bowl and cover it with water, let it sit out until the food absorbs the water and turns into mush, mix a little peanut butter or Kong spray treat into the mush, loosely stuff the Kong most of the way with the mush, and freeze the entire thing. The frozen Kong will act as a time released treat and will keep your pup entertained for longer. If you fill enough Kongs, then you can even feed your dog his entire meals this way and as training treats and put the dog food bowl away until he is older, if you wish. Lastly, this is an extremely important age for preventing bad habits from turning into life long habits and for supervising your dog. Most destructive chewing habits at this age will disappear as he gets older if you can limit his access to those items and encourage good chew toy chewing habits now. If you cannot supervise him, then he needs to be confined in a crate, dog proof room, or exercise pen if he will not escape from one, and he needs to be given a Kong or something that he enjoys to chew on. When he is free, then he either needs to be watched closely or at least all of your socks and underwear need to go in a location where he cannot get to them. Which means that you might have to get creative with locking the laundry room basket down or covering it better. You can also create a booby trap on the laundry hamper. You can purchase magnetic sensors that will make noise when the two points are not touching and set those up so that he will bump one out of place when he gets into the laundry. There are a number of other booby traps that you can come up with too, just make sure that whatever you use is not something that will harm him and that the area that you set it up in is not a location where he should ever be, because the booby trap might teach him to avoid that location or thing entirely. You might also want to experiment with spraying a few socks and underwear that you intentionally leave out with Bitter Apple or another deterrent spray, but if you do this make sure that all other socks and underwear that have not been sprayed are out of reach, or he will simply learn to seek out the unaffected ones if he discovers that not all of items taste bad. Also spy on him when you try this because some dogs actually like the taste of Bitter Apple and he might eat the sock still if it turns out that he likes it, and that is not good. Most dogs do not like it though. Leash training can take some time, and for it to be effective he cannot be rewarded with forward movement anytime that he pulls. Expect walks to involve a lot of walking back and forth and training at this age. Just remember when you work on it, that you are having weird walks now so that you can have peaceful walks for the next ten or more years of his life. He needs to learn that the only way to get anywhere is to walk beside you nicely. I find that turning directly in front of a dog at a ninety degree angle when he starts to move past your knee helps him to learn to stay back a bit. You have to do this very quickly and as soon as he begins to move past your knee, any later and it is hard to get in front of him. For more detailed instructions check out this Wag! article: https://wagwalking.com/training/leash-train-a-german-shepherd-puppy Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Melo
Great Pyrenees
8 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Melo
Great Pyrenees
8 Months

Im in the process of teaching melo not to pee or poo in the house ,he knows we want him to go out side and he does most of the time but thats only when we watch him.and let him out for most of the day .how do i get him to let me know when he has to go.So i can know when to let him out.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
396 Dog owners recommended

Hello Shanice, He may naturally find his own way of letting you know when he needs to go outside if you bring a few small treats with you when you take him outside, you tell him to "Go Potty" when you get out there, and then you give him three to five treats, one at a time, when he goes. You can help Melo even more by teaching him to ring a bell when he needs to go outside. To teach him that, check out this Wag! article that I have linked bellow. https://wagwalking.com/training/got-potty-with-a-bell Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rubisco
chihuahua mix
7 Years
-1 found helpful
Question
-1 found helpful
Rubisco
chihuahua mix
7 Years

I've given Rubisco toys and balls and treats while I'm away at work. And yet I still find that she has put holes in my clothes. She nibbles on blankets, clothes, socks, you name it. It most likely has a hole it now. I really don't know what to do to stop it. When I see her doing it the leave it command works great. Its when I'm at work that this happens. Thanks.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
396 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mikaela, First, Rubisco needs to break the cycle of chewing clothes by not having access to them when you are not able to be there to train. Either keep all Fabric items put away, crate her or use an exercise pen if that's not realistic, or put her in a room where you can control access to fabric. Continue giving interesting toys and practicing leave it also. Second, I suggest booby trapping the fabric items so that she will learn not to chew them when you are not around. One example of this would be putting her in a room without any fabric items and setting up a camera to spy on her. A second smart phone or iPad with Skype or FaceTime on mute, a video baby monitor, security camera, or GoPro with the live app are some options you might already own for a camera to spy. Purchase Snappy Trainers (which are fake mouse traps that jump and pop but do not shut on the dog). Set the Snappy Trainers up on the floor when she is not around and set an article of clothing on top, covering it. Be careful not to set it off when you do this. Light weight clothing will be easiest. You only want one fabric item in the room at a time and for it to be the booby trapped one. Watch her on the camera and when she sets off the trap by bothering the clothing go into the room after and remove the clothing article and traps so that she doesn't have a chance to investigate it and get used to it. Repeat this with different types of fabric that she chews, one item at a time until she leaves fabric alone. You can also use a remote vibration collar to correct her from the hand held remote while watching her on the video monitor. Do not use citronella though - it lingers too long and can be confusing. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Snappy
Pomeranian
8 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Snappy
Pomeranian
8 Months

He is chewing clothes, it's really annoying
And he is eating the same, specialy when he is alone

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
396 Dog owners recommended

Hello Frincy, At this age he needs to be crated while you are gone for his own safety. Check out the article linked below for more information on how to deal with the chewing: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ Pay special attention to providing food stuffed chew toys, confinement when you are gone or cannot supervise, teaching Leave It, and using a deterrent spray. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Oreo
Black Lab Border Collie
20 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Oreo
Black Lab Border Collie
20 Months

Oreo only chews on clothing when we are not present or are sleeping. When we are home and awake, he'll chew on bones, tree branches and other non-cloth things. It's only when he thinks he is alone that he goes for clothing. How do I stop this?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
396 Dog owners recommended

Hello Chris, He needs to be crated while you are gone and at night. You first need to stop the bad habit - without doing that the next steps won't work. Many dogs will destructively chew until 1-3 years of age, and longer if you don't confine them when you aren't able to supervise - because they are rewarded for it by having fun when no one is there to stop them. Surprise method for introducing the crate: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Crate manners protocol for calmness: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ I suggest crating when you aren't present - for a year. After a year and when pup hasn't chewed anything in the last six months, then you can test whether he is ready for freedom by leaving him alone for 10 minutes. When you return, inspect the house for anything chewed. If he chewed something he shouldn't during that time, he isn't ready for freedom yet, crate for another 4 months, then test again. If he doesn't chew anything, then leave him for 20 minutes then next time, then 45 if he did well with 20 minutes, then 2 hours, then 3 hours, then 4-6 hours. If he can do well with all of those times, then he is likely ready for freedom. If he chews during any of those times, then crate for another 4-6 months and try again in a few months. When you are home, work on the training from the article linked below. Especially practicing Leave It with household items (always give a treat and not the actual item as a reward for leaving things alone), and providing him with a hollow chew toy stuffed with his own dog food to teach him to prefer his own toys to chew on - this last part is super important. Many dogs simply need to chew, so you have to teach them to chew their toys and find them most interesting - stuffing them with food is a great way to do this, and you have to limit access to things they shouldn't chew on while they are learning chewing habits.. Chewing article: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Pluto
Goldendoodle
15 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Pluto
Goldendoodle
15 Weeks

My dog has started jumping on me . When he jumps he tries to dig in his teeth on the clothes , tearing them in the process. I have tried ignoring his jumps, trying to distract him with treats, trying to turn away in other direction etc but that just seems to rile him up. I need to drag myself away from him and in the process normally the clothes get teared up as he doesnt let go even then.
Its not like he is doing this because he is bored, sometimes he does that even after playing for 20-30 mins , after which he is almost too tired to run.
He is fine with my wife, so am not sure why this is happening and what to do about it. Please advise.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
396 Dog owners recommended

Hello Varkashy, Check out the article linked below and follow the Step Toward method. Most dogs jump to get attention - in his case he is probably very rudely demanding that you play with him and pay attention to him by him being rough. He hasn't learned to respect your personal space yet which is why I suggest the Step Toward method. Stepping toward him not only makes the jumping less rewarding for him but it also moves you into HIS space, which communicates that he needs to respect the area around you. Rewarding him for sitting right after shows him that he can ask for your attention in a better way. When you step toward him be very calm and firm. Keep taking calm steps toward him until he not only stops jumping but also gives you at least a foot of space. He will probably get more excited at first, but as you remain calm and consistent his enthusiasm should wear off and him get calmer too. Imagine yourself as a drill sergeant or brick wall when you do this. Your attitude should be calm and firm. Don't worry about bumping into him a bit when he jumps. If he doesn't move, you will bump into him, just be careful not to step on paws. The goal isn't to knee him when he jumps but to move toward him, causing him to back up. Step Toward method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rhys
Min Pin
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Rhys
Min Pin
1 Year

Rhys eats everything; he doesn't chew, his goal is to swallow it. He has swallowed socks, towels, sheets, plush toys, sticks, underwear, etc. He normally vomits the item, poops it out, or I give him hydrogen peroxide when I see it happen. Unfortunately, I did not catch it this last time, and I ended up with a $5,000 emergency surgery vet bill for intestinal blockage surgery.
I keep him in his crate for the majority of the day with only hard toys (that he has no interest in). When he is out in the house or yard, he is never off the leash. What kind of life is this? He has no freedom or independence. How can I fix this behavior? The vet and his dog trainer both say that this is a type of resource guarding ("I don't want you to have it so I put it in my stomach"), so he will not grow out of it and it will be hard to train it out him... He's already in hard-core training for aggressive resource guarding with toys (he has bitten me multiple times to draw blood). I'm basically at a loss... thinking maybe he would be better off in another family. Any advice?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
396 Dog owners recommended

Hello Liz, Check out Jeff Gellman from SolidK9Training. He has hundred of videos on Youtube. He specializes in aggression and problem behaviors and offers board and training. You really need an excellent trainer who uses e-collar training, and does tons of structure with a dog, exercising their mind and body, actively working on impulse control and building trust. Check out the video linked below on resource guarding. This video is only a fraction of the training and structure needed, but is one example of a protocol to work on with pup, in combination with other training- this is a dangerous behavior to mess with so only do this type of training working with a qualified professional. https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-out-command/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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