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Why Does My Dog Steal My Clothes? 6 Likely Reasons & What to Do

Written by: Kathryn Copeland

Last Updated on April 14, 2024 by Dogster Team

Why Does My Dog Steal My Clothes? 6 Likely Reasons & What to Do

Have you ever come home and found your favorite shoes being chewed on by your beloved dog? Or did you think that the washing machine swallowed one of your socks, but then you find it in your dog’s bed? What is up with dogs stealing clothes?

If you’re not careful, your dog might just run off with your underwear, so it can help to understand why your dog does this in the first place. Here, we go over several reasons that dogs seem obsessed with their owners’ clothing, along with tips on protecting your belongings from your dog’s rather strange attention.

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The 6 Reasons That Dogs Steal Clothing

You should first understand that your dog isn’t stealing or chewing on your clothing for any nefarious reasons. Knowing this can help you understand your dog better.

1. Your Clothes Smell Like You

If your dog tends to steal your dirty laundry, it’s probably because it smells like you. The smellier your clothing, the more your dog probably loves it. If you throw your clothes on the floor or leave them where they’re easily accessed, your dog might even think you’ve left them there as a gift.

In these cases, your dog might bring the clothing to their bed to have your scent nearby for comfort. Dogs are pack animals, and combining their scent with yours is comforting.


2. They Have Anxiety and Stress

Dogs that experience a certain amount of stress and anxiety are more likely to run off with something that smells like you. This could be a compulsive behavior to help them deal with their anxiety.

Stealing clothing that smells like you is not only comforting but also a sign of self-soothing for anxious dogs.

sick dog
Image by: Lindsay Helms, Shutterstock

3. Clothing Is Soft and Chewable

Dogs love soft things. This could be an evolutionary trait, as dogs were hunters of soft furry critters. Chewing on soft things might remind them of chewing on feathers and fur.

This also plays into the fact that dogs just love to chew. This is a perfectly instinct that all dogs have. If they aren’t given an appropriate chew toy, they might chew on whatever they can find, which can end up being your belongings.


4. They Are Bored

If a dog isn’t getting enough physical or mental stimulation, their behavior can become destructive. They need to find ways to entertain themselves, which can lead to stealing things and chewing forbidden items.

Dogs need plenty of physical exercise to help expend their energy. If they don’t have enough toys for chewing or enough playtime with you, all these issues can lead to a dog destroying your yard and belongings.

sick australian shepherd dog
Image by: Irini Adler, Pixabay

5. They Are Looking for Attention

Dogs can be mischievous rascals at times, and stealing your clothing so you can chase them becomes a big and entertaining game for them.

It’s even more fun if they get in an additional game of tug-of-war with one of your socks. All of this could indicate that your dog is seeking to spend more time playing with you.


6. Dogs Are Scavengers

A dog’s instincts can drive them to scavenge, which makes them excellent thieves. Dogs are usually on the lookout for food — or something smelly of yours that is soft and fun to play with and smells like you.

This also means your dog probably steals other things besides your clothing. Your dog can be quite the scavenger when the opportunity arises, taking anything from food and garbage to your clothing and anything else of interest.

dog-digging-pixabay
Image Credit: SabbraCadabra, Pixabay

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The 5 Tips to Stop Your Dog From Stealing Your Clothes

For the most part, this can be harmless behavior—other than you losing a few articles of clothing. But if your dog is chewing on your clothing, you will want to stop that because it can be a choking hazard or cause an intestinal blockage. So, here are a few tips that can hopefully prevent this behavior.

1. Spend Quality Time With Them

If you’re away from home frequently, spend as much time as you can with your dog when you have free time. Fill it up with dog-related fun!

Go to the dog park, have long walks, throw a ball, or do whatever your dog enjoys. Tire your dog out! A happy dog that is not bored is much less likely to be mischievous.


2. Give Them Chew Toys

Providing your dog with toys can help prevent boredom from setting in, particularly if your dog likes chewing on your stuff. Get dog-appropriate chew toys that can help physically and mentally stimulate your dog.

Even if you already have many toys for your dog, consider getting new ones if they’ve been around for a while. You can swap a few old ones with the new ones and then bring out the old ones again when your pup gets bored of them.

german shepherd dog with its chew toy outdoors
Image Credit: lightman_pic, Shutterstock

3. Use Positive Reinforcement

Dogs respond best to positive reinforcement, so instead of chasing or yelling at your dog when they grab your sock, try to ignore them—as long as they aren’t chewing on it.

Once your dog gets bored of the sock, you can casually pick it up. If you react every time your dog grabs your clothing, they will keep doing it because it becomes a fun game, and they have your full attention.


4. Don’t Leave Your Clothing Out

If no socks or t-shirts are lying around, your dog can’t run off with them. Try keeping your clothing in the closet with the door closed, and keep your dirty laundry in a hamper with a tight-fitting lid. Without the temptation of your clothing, your dog will have nothing to steal.

woman doing laundry
Image by: Rozhnovskaya Tanya, Shutterstock

5. Give Your Dog Your Clothing

If you believe your dog needs something that smells like you for comfort, wear an old t-shirt for a day and then put it in your dog’s bed. This is only recommended for dogs that won’t chew up the clothing for safety reasons.

But if your dog just wants to snuggle up in something soft that smells like you, then this way, your dog won’t need to steal anything. However, if your dog seems to have anxiety issues, you should speak to your vet.

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Conclusion

Dogs will be dogs, and these scamps are talented at sneaking up and sneaking off with something of ours, like clothes. As long as your dog isn’t chewing up and destroying your belongings, it’s usually a behavior that you can attribute to simply having a quirky pup.

But if there’s any chance that your dog is chewing or eating your clothes, you’ll need to stop this behavior. You should also speak to your vet if you’re concerned about this behavior, particularly if your dog seems to be suffering from anxiety.

Spend extra time exercising and playing with your dog. This way, they will feel safe and secure and might not need to resort to stealing your underwear!


Featured Image Credit: k_o_n_d, Shutterstock

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