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
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 Trainier
64 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
Alamo
Golden Retriever
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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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 Trainier
64 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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