If you ever asked yourself why does my dog take my clothes when I’m gone, you might find the answer among the following reasons:
- separation anxiety: Dogs who suffer from this condition need a familiar scent to feel calm.
- Safety and comfort: Dogs are pack animals, and when a pack member is gone, they will turn to an object that smells like them for comfort.
- Lack of toys: If a dog has no toys or is unable to reach them, he or she might look for a decent enough substitute within reach.
- Boredom: Lack of physical and mental stimulation leads to boredom. Pooches get bored easily and fairly quickly.
- Treasure hunt: Some dogs simply love to scavenge around for “treasure” — your clothes might just be the perfect prize
- Attention seeking: They want our undivided attention, and they know how to get it.
- Expressing affection: Sometimes, the answer to the question of why does my dog take my clothes when I’m gone can be as simple as because it loves me.
Why Does My Dog Take My Clothes When I’m Gone?
Do you come home after a long day at work only to find your pooch has rummaged through your belongings once again? Are your clothes in odd places, scattered around as evidence of its misbehavior? There was a time I was asking myself why does my dog take my clothes when I’m gone, so I did some research to fully understand this behavior.
While some pooches will chew on the prized item, others might simply lie down and cuddle with it. They are skillful thieves, and nothing is out of their reach — be it shoes and slippers, T-shirts, sweatpants, or even underwear. But are our furry friends just kleptomaniacs, or is there something else going on? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
The Reasons Behind the Grand Theft
My dog Pablo is a perfectly lazy sausage dog with no behavioral issues, but he loves his slippers. Actually, he loves my slippers, flip-flops, and all my other shoes. About six years ago, when this furry bundle of joy entered my life, I was faced with constant, every-day flip-flop theft.
When he was only a pup, the soft sole seemed to be a perfect chew toy. What used to be a Havaiana soon became a shapeless piece of purple rubber. What’s more interesting is that Pablo still loves that half-eaten sole. He carries it around, flashes it proudly in front of guests, he even takes it to bed and sleeps with it.
I always wanted to know what his fascination with footwear and clothing items was. Does he do it just to annoy me? It turns out that there are several reasons behind the stealing habits of our dogs, and they are all motivated by different emotions. Each dog is unique, and he or she is not trying to drive us crazy but to send us a message.
Why does my dog take my clothes when I’m gone? Here’s an outline of the most likely reasons:
- Separation anxiety
- Safety and comfort
- Lack of toys
- Boredom (lack of mental and physical stimulation)
- Treasure hunting
- Attention seeking
According to animal behaviorists, separation anxiety is a condition in which a dog shows symptoms of stress and anxiety when left alone. There are other causes of separation anxiety, such as a change in surroundings, new owners and routines, neglect, and so on.
Most dogs that suffer from this kind of anxiety dread the moment their owners would leave. They can sense it and might even try to prevent the owner from going away. That is a clear symptom of separation anxiety. Other symptoms an anxious dog might exhibit can range from whining and barking to urinating and destroying furniture. Stealing our clothes can be one sign of a mild case of separation anxiety.
When that is the case, a dog is simply looking for something that smells like its owner. The familiar scent dogs pick up with ease tells them that, in a way, their owner is still around. It’s a reassurance and a safe place.
Personally, I’m fine with leaving my shirt on the couch for my dog to cuddle with. He suffers from low-level separation anxiety, and I’m aware of that. As long as it’s mild anxiety and you don’t mind dog hair on your clothes, leaving something for him to cuddle with is fine.
Safety And Comfort
Dogs are pack animals, and being close to other pack members makes them feel safe and comfortable. When they are left alone, dogs might look for the safety of the pack in a familiar scent, and they might find it in the clothes we regularly wear.
Also, they just love the smell of their owner. That’s why cuddling with our clothes keeps them calm and is an important part of bonding for our pooches.
Finally, clothes are soft and retain warmth, so why not just use them for added comfort when taking a nap?
Lack Of Toys
If a dog has no toys or is unable to reach them, he or she might look for a decent enough substitute within reach. A shoe can make a great new toy, and a shirt can easily become imaginary prey to chew on.
Furthermore, dogs need toys of varying types to stimulate different areas of the brain. An ideal combination would be something to chew on, something to tug on, and something to challenge them mentally. Otherwise, your slippers might end up being the chew toy, and cracking the wardrobe door open might become the new challenge.
Dogs get bored easily and relatively quickly. A lack of toys can certainly cause boredom, but so can having access to the same toys all the time. It’s like playing the same video game over and over again — we will get bored of it eventually.
I try to limit the number of toys available and rotate them every once in a while. Pablo gets so excited after not seeing his toy for days, and the enthusiasm he approaches it with is almost contagious.
Also, I make sure to walk him often, play with him a lot, and train him. A great way to add some mental challenges to the mix is by teaching your pooch new tricks or just reinforcing the ones it already knows. Dogs definitely like learning alongside their owners.
Although domesticated, dogs are natural scavengers. Most of them love to hunt for treasure and to scavenge around for various prizes. However, the majority of pet dogs don’t have any hunting abilities, skills, or experience.
The chances of Pablo catching anything other than a flip-flop are next to none, but the scavenging instincts remain. Whether it’s an opportunity for a free meal or for a new item to play with, a dog will find a way to get what it’s after.
Dogs are hoarders and tend to stockpile objects they like. They like to surround themselves with all the toys they can find, whatever their definition of ‘toy’ might be. On the other hand, clothes can be appealing because they are simply handy. Sometimes, the answer to the question of why does my dog take my clothes when I’m gone is simply because.
Remember the half-eaten purple sole of my flip-flop? My dog often greets me at the door by holding the shoe in his mouth, wagging his tail and asking me to chase him. He’d want me to try and take it away from him without actually doing so. He does the same thing with any slipper I’m about to put on.
Pablo figured out that I will fight for the slipper, and for him, it’s all part of a game. Dogs are expert attention seekers, and some will use this skill more often than others. They want our undivided attention.
What Do I Do?
Next time you ask yourself why does my dog take my clothes when I’m gone, try identifying the reasons for that behavior. In the long run, pinpointing the exact cause is more important than the behavior itself. Because, if you are not a fan of these little thefts, you’d want to find a solution and correct the behavior as soon as possible.
If you think your pooch might suffer from separation anxiety, do some research on how to manage it. Also, make sure to supply enough toys of different types. Take long walks and regularly play with your pooch. Finally, teach him or her new tricks, go on treasure hunts, and discover the world together.
On the other hand, if my pooch feels safe and comfortable snoozing on my shirt, that’s fine with me. It’s just him letting me know how much he wants to be with me. The answer to the question of why does my dog take my clothes when I’m gone can be as simple as because he loves me. It’s an expression of affection and belonging, and I think it makes us stronger as a pack.