Why Dogs Chew on People's Clothing

My best bud's adoze in the duds.
i Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

You love playing with Sparky and letting him socialize with your friends when they come over, but it’s embarrassing when he chews on everyone’s clothing. With a little work, you can nix this annoying habit before he destroys everything in your closet.

Being Playful

You may find it annoying when you’re giving Sparky a belly rub and he constantly tugs at your shirt. He’s just being playful. He can accidentally shred your clothing or bite your hand, though, so don’t let him chew on your sleeve. When he starts tugging at your clothing when you’re petting him, immediately stop giving him attention and fold your arms. As soon as he stops, you can start petting him again. He’ll start to figure out that when he puts his mouth on you, his petting session stops. He doesn't want that. In the beginning you may be petting him for only a couple seconds at a time, but he’ll sooner than later get the hang of it.

Getting Attention

When you see Sparky making chew toys out of your clothes and scold him, you're actually reinforcing his behavior rather than discouraging it: You stopped what you were doing to run over and check on him, and he likes that. You didn’t do it intentionally, but you just encouraged the behavior. Sparky will get the idea that, if he wants to see you, all he has to do is go digging through the laundry room.

It Smells Like You

Sparky adores you – you’re his whole world. He misses you while you’re gone and needs to find a way to be close to you. Grabbing your clothes out of the hamper and curling up on them makes him feel like he’s close to you. As a bonus, chewing is naturally soothing; it helps calm his nerves while you’re away. A general rule for your pet's safety's sake is, "if you don’t want it in your dog’s mouth, don’t leave it where he can get it." Close the bathroom door to keep him out of the hamper, for instance, and keep closet doors and bureau drawers closed so he can’t get to your clean clothes.

Helpful Tips

If Sparky tends to be a bit mouthy during a petting or play session, put a little bitter spray or hot sauce on the back of your hand. When he goes to nab your sleeve, he’ll get a nasty-tasting surprise. You may have to do it a few times over until he gets it – it won’t take long, though. Any time he has something in his mouth that doesn’t belong there, like your pant leg, put something in his mouth that is acceptable for him to gnaw on. Don’t make a big deal out of it, just place a chew toy in his mouth instead. You’re replacing the bad behavior with one that is acceptable. Once he's chewing on the toy instead, you can reach down and pat his head.

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