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.
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.