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.
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.
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.