Why Do Dogs Steal Laundry?
When it comes to dirty laundry some dogs are excellent thieves. Does your dog steal your dirty clothing? Socks, underwear, towels, old t-shirts — nothing’s off limits when it comes to some canine kleptomaniacs. In this article we’ll look at why dogs steal laundry, why it’s a dangerous habit, and what you can do to prevent it.
Why Do Dogs Steal Laundry?
So why does your dog suddenly run off with your socks? Why do dogs steal our clothes? The most common reasons for dogs to steal laundry include:
- They’re bored
- Some dogs will chew on anything
- The clothing smells like you
- They like soft stuff
- They’re natural scavengers
Some dogs (especially young dogs) will pick up anything that’s laying on the ground and use it as a toy. If you want your dog to stop picking up laundry the easiest solution is keeping it off the floor to begin with.
Dogs Are Natural Scavengers
“Hey get back here with that sock!” How many times have you had to chase your dog around the living room after he’s stolen your sock? Have you ever sat back and wondered; why do dogs steal laundry?
With their history of scavenging our canine companions make excellent thieves. Although our domestication of dogs has made them less reliable on their own hunting abilities some of their scavenging behaviors remain quite present. They still sniff out opportunities for a free meal – or in the case of laundry something smelly, warm, or fun to play with.
Whether it’s counter surfing, stealing out of the garbage, or raiding your laundry – some dogs remain opportunistic scavengers. So why do dogs steal laundry?
Dogs Like Dirty Laundry Because It Smells Like You
Our dogs are great, not only do they love us unconditionally, but they also love anything that smells like you. Flattering, isn’t it? Your sweaty, stinky socks aren’t foul to your dog, they’re treasures.
New dog owners can help puppies adapt to a new home by giving them a blanket or piece of clothing from their old environment that smells like their mom. The familiar scents make them more comfortable while they adjust to their new surroundings.
After a week of being home my dog Laika was still crying at night so I decided to try out the clothing trick. She stopped crying at night after I put a t-shirt I’d worn in bed with her. Having a familiar scent around helps reduce a dogs anxiety when they’re left alone.
Dogs Steal Laundry Because They Like Soft Stuff
Another reason some dogs steal your clothes is that they love soft stuff. Certain textures such as tissue paper, soft fabrics and paper are always going to appeal to certain dogs. It’s believed that dogs chew soft stuff because it’s a natural instinct, and that those soft textures are a lot like the feeling of chewing on fur & feathers.
Soft stuff feels good to chew, and that’s especially true for young teething puppies.
Dogs Steal Laundry Because They’re Bored
Dogs get bored just like us. If your dog isn’t being mentally or physically stimulated he’s going to invent his own ways of entertaining himself. This often leads to unwanted behaviors such as chewing or stealing objects.
Tip: If you’re looking for some simple ways to keep your dog busy check out 26 quick ways to relieve dog boredom & 33 ways to keep your dog busy indoors.
Stolen socks make great toys for bored dogs – they’re soft, easy to throw around, and fun to rip apart.
Have you chased your dog around the house after he’s stolen something he’s not supposed to have? You might be making the behavior worse if you engage in chase. He might be looking for that game of chase when he nabs your sock because he’s bored and seeking attention.
If your dog has access to the same toys all the time it’s likely that he’s grown bored of them. He might be stealing your laundry simply because it’s something new to play with. Instead of allowing access to all toys at all times you should consider rotating them. In our house our dog Laika gets a few toys at a time and it’s rotated weekly. When she gets her ‘new’ toys back she’s pretty darn enthusiastic about them.
Some dogs steal because they long for your attention. They will take something just to prompt you to chase them. These dogs know what is important to you and they will grab the item just at the right time, so you see them do it. Their great hope is that you will follow in hot pursuit. – Vetstreet
Socks and other clothing items are popular targets to steal because they smell like you, they’re soft, and they’re often just left lying around.
The Dangers of Letting Your Dog Play Chew on Clothing
Dog’s aren’t very good when it comes to deciding what they should, or should not, be ingesting. If your dog is left alone with a sock, shirt, or any other stolen object there’s always the possibility that they’ll decide to eat it.
Earlier this year a 3 year old Great Dane was taken to the vet after he started vomiting. The x-ray showed a large amount of foreign material in his stomach so they opened him up and discovered 43.5 socks. Luckily the dog was fine and made a full recovery.
What To do When Your Dog Steals Laundry
If your dog is a laundry thief there are a few simple tips to get them to stop. Don’t yell when your dog steals your laundry. If you yell and chase you’re either going to promote a game of chase or cause your dog to become scared and defensive. If you chase after your dog and he was looking for attention to begin with you’re rewarding the behavior.
The easiest way to get your stolen item back from your dog is to bribe them. Go to the kitchen and start rummaging through food or pick up one of their favorite toys and invite them to play. It might seem like rewarding bad behavior but you have to think of it from your dogs perspective.
If you reward your dog for coming back to you with the stolen object they’ll be more likely to voluntarily return it the next time. If you chase or yell they’re more likely to run away or hide.
If your dog is stealing laundry it’s a perfect opportunity to teach them a more appropriate behavior. Once you’ve gotten that sock back from them show them what you’d prefer them to do instead. If you don’t want to actively play with your dog at the moment invest in some interactive toys. Kong Wobblers, Puzzle Toys, and a stuffed Kong are all decent ways to keep your dog entertained.
Our dogs look to us for direction; when they do something inappropriate it’s important to show them what they should be doing instead. If you just take away the stolen object without any further direction they’re likely to go out and find another way to entertain themselves.
How to Prevent Your Dog From Taking Laundry
Keep your laundry stored away in a hamper or somewhere closed off. If your dog has a habit of stealing your laundry don’t leave it lying around where it’s easily accessible.
Dogs have a history of scavenging; if you leave lots of smelly, interesting stuffy lying around they’re bound to steal it.
Keep your dog mentally and physically tired. Most dogs, especially the younger sporting and working breeds need a lot of daily exercise. A simple walk around the block won’t cut it.
Add in some games of tug, fetch, and obedience work. There’s plenty of simple ways to keep your dog entertained. Adding a few play sessions a day will keep your dog happy, healthy, and out of your laundry basket.
Is Your Dog a Laundry Thief?
I still catch Laika stealing tissues occasionally. I don’t know if it’s the super soft texture or the fact that it’s so easy to shred, but she loves tissue. Luckily she’s easy to bribe with a game or tug or a carrot.
Does your dog steal any weird items? Does he raid the garbage or laundry bin? I’d love to hear what weird items your dog steals – share your dogs thieving ways in the comments below.
Check out out the Rest of Our “Why Do Dogs” Series:
- Why Do Dog Feet Smell Like Fritos?
- Why Do Dogs Like Belly Rubs?
- Why Do Dogs Have Spotted Tongues?
- Why Do Dogs Go Crazy After a Bath?
Lauren Miller says
Great post!!! I’m so glad my dogs don’t steal things!! 😀
Jeanne Pursell says
Hi there! Wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year!!
LOL! My Lexus is SUCH a laundry thief! The others don’t bother, but she will steal any sock or shirt she can!
ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
jana rade says
Cookie steals tissues all the time, particularly when I’m trying to blow my nose. Lol. Since those are relatively safe for a dog her size, I let her have them. Better those than the alternatives.
Jen Gabbard says
Yeah I guess it’s a better alternative than some other items lol.
Lori Checchi says
Yes my dog too! For some reason tissues, paper towels and her puppy wipes fascinate her and she must have them! Even if we give her a paper towel to chew…she has to have the one we’re using!
It's Dog Or Nothing says
I have a horrible issue with leaving my socks around. Atka likes to steal them and shred them, while Mauja prefers to bury them. Thankfully, eating them is not on their agenda.
Jen Gabbard says
I’m glad they don’t like to eat them either; it’s funny that Mauja buries them. I know Laika buries her bones in our cushions when we’re not looking.
Rebekah Ward says
Bruce has eaten countless socks, panties, and a couple of gloves. I had never given thought as to why he did it. This was really informative.
Sock-stealing is one of Ruby’s greatest joys, and she is really stealthy about it! I make sure they’re picked up at all times, but laundry day usually results in a few games of keep-away. I admit to allowing and encouraging it (by engaging in the chase) because she is just so pleased with herself.
Jen Gabbard says
It’s hard not to; sometimes Laika gets in that mood as well when she’s stolen something and she’s just so darn happy
Haley’s nightly ritual includes the ‘gathering of the socks’! She likes to sleep with them but thankfully doesn’t chew or eat them. She loves a good game of sock ball fetch and will sometimes attempt to take my socks off my feet in the early evening.
Jen Gabbard says
Aww she really just wants to sleep with something that smells like you nearby, it’s sort of sweet when you think about it that way.
2 brown dawgs blog says
When Thunder was young, I wanted to kill him. He would get up on his hind legs and steal the dish cloth. Then he would take it to one side of our square coffee table and just stand there. I could not get to him unless I got on the table. He was such a pill. I would try to be stern with him, but I was laughing under my breath. It was funny. The trade thing and Chessies does not work because they will steal so that they get treats! At 18 months the stealing stopped one day. Just stopped. Thank goodness.
Jen Gabbard says
That’s so funny, the damn dishcloth of all things. It must be from all those interesting smells, it became a real treasure for him lol. It is so frustrating when they go under the table, for a while Laika was doing that every time she took something. Instantly she was under the table just looking at me like “what? you gunna drag me out?” Glad she outgrew that as well.
My dog steals only socks. Dirty, clean, just socks. I wil purposely bury them in the dirty laundry and he will dig to the bottom and pull a sock out. Doesnt chew or even play with it. Just drop it in the middle of the room
Miss Cellany says
My dog steals my socks when I’m not looking and just sits with them on her bed. If I come into the room and she has a sock she’ll quickly lie down on it to hide it because she knows she’s not supposed to take them. Once my sister caught her stealing a sock and the crazy dog flung the sock through the air to get rid of the evidence (the sock ended up falling behind the sofa).
Sometimes I pretend not to notice that she has one since she appears to love them so much.
She also steals paper and card out of the recycling and tears it up when she’s bored. I usually come home to bits of shredded paper everywhere. She likes to crush plastic bottles too.
I really need a lid on my recycling bin :/
Lori Checchi says
My 11 month old Beagle loves to take things she knows she shouldn’t right in front of our faces! As we tell her “no take” she takes while looking at us as she walks by! The hand towel in the bathroom is one of her favorites. We keep the door closed most times now or hang it up high. So then she takes a towel she can reach! It’s impossible to keep all of the bathroom towels out of reach and I don’t think that teaches them anything anyway. When she was younger we taught her not to take it and she didn’t until recently when she learned about this chase game she gets when she takes something! Unless it’s something dangerous or very valuable…like my glasses….we are ignoring her. She has started to wonder what’s going on, to the point of almost bringing the item to us or leaving it and walking away. If we don’t care about what she has, she won’t either. It’s beginning to work. Now if we can only figure out how to keep her from putting a stone in her mouth while outside….and us prying her jaw open…we’ll be good!
haha tissues, my socks and shoes are at the top of the list for kevin
Great article. We read it, we learned and we loved it
Lisa Ogilvie says
I’m fostering a chihuahua/pom mix, she steals things right out of the laundry basket and if you leave the dryer door open while you’re folding she takes things out of there to. Socks, underwear, night gowns, tissues, face cloths and she hoards them, usually making a nest under my bed and we can’t figure out why. She has 2 soft beds and plenty of things that are hers, she’ll steal from our guests as well whenever she gets a chance. We’re dog people, we have about 40 years dog experience and rescue experience each and can’t figure it out. If anyone has any insight, we’d love to hear from you, we kind of feel like we’re not doing something right or neglecting her needs in some way.
Jen Gabbard says
I wish I had a concrete answer for you. Does she go to that nest she makes often? Or does she just hoard the stuff there? On Vetstreet they mention that certain breeds, including Poms, are more prone to stealing clothing. They don’t explain why certain breeds tend to do it, but that could definitely be playing into it. (http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/why-does-my-dog-steal-objects)
My dog Lily steals socks, undies and shoes but she never chews on them. She just places them next to her on her bed. She has stolen socks from my dad as well. Occasionally some of my stuff ends up outside. She will chew up tissues though.
Can tou tell me why my god steal sock but he disent chew on them he snuggles and sleeps with it.
Jen Gabbard says
My best guess is that he enjoys the fact that it smells like you and finds it comforting. When my dog was a puppy I used to give her a shirt of mine to sleep with when she’d whine; it really did make a big difference.
Soccer equipment. She takes my cleats and puts them in my bed, and she has hidden a few pairs of soccer socks, shin pads and goalie gloves, which are the stinkiest things I own….
Julie Diaz says
I have to buys socks every month. LOL
Wish i could post the picture of my yorkie giving me the cutest stare after i found her on the laundry basket searching for socks.
Margaret Fagan says
Initially Wrenny stole and chewed shoes. Now she steals my slippers ( she disembowels them by pulling out the insoles), our socks, my bras , underwear and a couple of times we found a large snowboot stuck in the dog door. But no more chewing. Must sound like we are real slobs but after the first shoe and slipper were chewed we have been very careful about leaving anything on the floor. And the snow boot was one third her size! She’s a 35 pound Springer spaniel rescue. We can’t figure out how she does it!
My Pomeranian steals dirty socks almost every night and I don’t know why but it makes me so angry. I know people think it’s cute but I just think it’s gross and it aggravates me that he doesn’t learn not to do it. I never chase him with it because I never see him with the sock he just sneaks into my room and finds a couple dirty ones on the floor and brings them into the living room. I’ve never caught him chewing on them or anything like that it’s just they magically appear in the living room every night. I’ve tried just about everything to get him to not do it, I yell at him and tell him he’s a bad boy and that those are mine Anna and put him to bed early but he still does it every chance he gets. I just think it’s so ridiculous that he likes them because it smells like me when I’m literally sitting 10 feet away from where he has dragged them and he does this when he could just come up to me and play with me anytime he wants. He never takes them to the room where he sleeps so it’s not like he’s trying to sleep with them.. yesterday he had six different dirty socks and I couldn’t even figure out how he found that many. Sometimes it’s underwear which grosses me out even more LOL. It’s the one Behavior that I just can’t stand for some reason. The other thing that bugs me is him marking his territory because I never had him fixed because I hope to possibly breed him one day. He’s gotten in trouble from peeing on the corner of the sofa or the garbage can or whatever so many times but he still does it. I know these are typical behaviors and I get that they are inspired by hormones and what not but I just can’t wrap my head around why they can’t learn to not do something after getting in trouble for it so many times and seeing how unhappy it makes us. I really don’t think that he wants the negative attention because he looks really sad when he sees that I have found a socks somewhere and then he runs away
I have a Mini Aussie who goes to take my socks generally only after she eats her yummy cooked meals (she had always had kibble in the previous home). It’s quite cute actually since she doesn’t chew them or destroy them. I’m thinking she was/is so tickled to have eaten such a yummy meal, that she wants to thank me by grabbing the easiest and quickest thing that smells like me. She also sometimes goes and rubs her face and body on the rug after eating a yummy meal. Though I did find out that in her previous home (she is 14 years old, I’ve had her almost a year now) that the male in the family had a prosthetic leg and that she would bring him his socks. Perhaps that’s where she got her love for socks! She doesn’t bring them to me, she just walks a bit with them and then drops them. I’m sure after 10+ years of being with someone and bringing them their socks, it’s a habit hard to break. It’s sad that someone gave her up after 12 years. But she’s my gem now!
It’s always the same story. My dog does the same. ALways try to steal socks, t-shirt or something
My black lab geo is so clever that everytime he waiting to steal things n ask me to run after him… He runs so fast that he’s difficult to grab such a slippary body…. He likes my hubby socks much…when I’m not there he steal towels n hide in his den… N start eating it…. It’s very difficult to keep eye on him… I always try to reward him but he want too much attention
Diane Morgan says
We’ve recently taken on a beautiful girl Poochon who eats anything and everything!! She’s ten months old and has swallowed my cloth to clean my glasses and constantly pinches washing as I am “carefully” unloading the machine ?? I really worry about this as afraid it might get stuck in her little belly. I have tried the swapping for treats sometimes it works sometimes she just gulps down her prize! I will not run after her anymore as yes she loves the chase. She ate so much grass and sticks yesterday in the garden she vomited up her food. She will even eat her poo if I don’t scoop it up immediately… any tips ????
Robert Hawkins says
Our Labrador puppy stole and ate anything and everything. After he ate some poisonous berries and had a narrow escape, he had to wear a muzzle for his own safety. People gave us some very strange looks, with our cute and utterly non-dangerous lab puppy wearing a muzzle. He grew out of it to the point where we didn’t need the muzzle, but he remains the fastest-eating dog I’ve ever seen