Is there a reason why my dog eats my underwear?
Dogs can eat underwear for many reasons. It’s usually nothing to be concerned about, but in some cases, it may be a cause for further investigation. The most common reasons are boredom, curiosity, attraction to items with strong scents, protection, and separation anxiety.
When you first bring home your new dog, you might be expecting to search for things like “how often should I feed my dog” or “how to keep my dog healthy.” Probably bottom of the list is “why does my dog eat my underwear?”
It can be tempting to just dismiss your dog’s behaviour as the normal quirks of your pet and not investigate it any further. However, as a responsible pet owner, you should be aware of all the potential causes of new behaviours.
If your dog has always been interested in eating your underwear, then it is normal to try to find a reason for this behaviour. If this is something new, you could consider keeping track of it in case there are more behaviours that follow a pattern.
A dog can be tempted to chew or eat lots of things lying around your house. That’s why it’s important to train your dog from a young age on the behaviours you want them to follow.
They can’t always help being a little bit naughty, but if you’ve got a good system of rewarding them when they behave positively, you can usually get rid of poor traits pretty quickly.
It’s understandable that a dog might want to chew up something tasty or perhaps something with an interesting texture (like a carpet). But why on earth would a dog eat underwear?
The reasons why might surprise you! Read on for a full list of explanations for this strange canine behaviour.
How to stop your dog from eating your underwear
In most cases, dog parents will expect a puppy or young dog to eat everything they can, but it’s less expected from an older dog.
- Separation anxiety
One quite common reason for dogs to act out and behave destructively is due to separation anxiety. Your dog desires being in your presence for as long as possible, and when this isn’t possible, they can become distressed.
There are other reasons for separation anxiety, including problems related to age and fear or new or frightening environments.
Some of the indicators that a dog is experiencing separation anxiety include excessive baking, aggression, restlessness, compulsive behaviours, and destructive behaviour.
This can result in strange things like your dog eating your underwear!
Fortunately, in most cases, dog anxiety is treatable. Your veterinarian will be able to properly diagnose the issue and give you some suggestions for treatment.
They may advise you on a training schedule that could work well for your pet and ensure that your underwear is left alone and unchewed.
This is a major cause of many dog behaviours that you would rather not have to deal with. Because dogs have to communicate with you in ways that may not make sense to you, it’s a good idea to do some experiments to figure out what the cause of the boredom could be.
For example, if they start eating your underwear or chewing up the carpet when they’ve been on their own for 6+ hours during the day, try reducing this to 3+ hours of alone time and see if the behaviour stops.
Another good experiment is to change up their walks. If you notice that they get particularly destructive if they’ve only been on one walk per day, or if they’ve still got boundless energy after a walk, this could be a sign that you should vary their routine.
Try incorporating two walks per day into your routine (where possible). Your dog will get used to looking forward to their walk and will be less likely to misbehave and eat your clothes.
- Underwear smell
It’s a delicate topic to discuss, but there is no disputing the fact that dogs have extremely powerful noses. In fact, their noses are actually 100 million times more sensitive than humans.
Underwear absorbs lots of scents and fluids while in use on our bodies. It’s not your pet’s fault that these scents still linger on the clothing even when you’ve put it in the laundry basket.
They are attracted to not only your scent, but a powerful scent coming from this soft item. So naturally, they will want to put it in their mouths and try to chew or eat it.
- Pica syndrome
Pica syndrome is a condition that causes dogs to desire and eat food with no nutritional value. This could become a health problem if the dog eats something that is potentially dangerous or toxic.
One of the items that dogs are often drawn to if they are suffering from Pica syndrome is items that contain traces of their owner’s scent.
Naturally, used underwear will be a powerful scent receptor and so could be a prime target for dogs.
As one of the more easily diagnosable canine health issues, Pica can be treatable by a vet. Sometimes related to digestive issues, your vet will be able to advise on the best course of action.
Just be sure to tell them that your dog has been eating your underwear – it’s completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of!
- Acting out their natural instincts
A common reason that a dog might be eating your clothing is due to them acting in accordance with their natural instincts.
As natural hunters, dogs were bred to become more domesticated, but that doesn’t mean that they lost all their primal instincts. Instead, they have become forced to adapt to a much gentler way of life, with their food being provided for them without any killing involved.
But what does this have to do with your underwear?
Dogs may believe that they have caught a prize item when it comes to your under clothes. The best way to redirect their attention to a more productive and less destructive behaviour is to set up games and activities that encourage them to use their instincts.
We covered this in great detail in this guide to knowing when your dog is bored and how to solve the problem.
If this is the reason your dog is eating your underwear, you should be able to stop the behaviour pretty quickly.
Is my dog normal for eating my underwear?
It may not be a normal behaviour because there might be an underlying reason that needs medical attention, but eating underwear certainly is a common one among dogs.
There’s no shame if your dog starts eating your underwear – it doesn’t mean that you’re unhygienic! Depending on the exact reason, the root cause is often identifiable and very treatable.
It’s natural to be worried if your older dog starts doing this, because you may worry that there is an underlying cause for this.
As with most strange behaviours, the best thing to do for your pet is to keep accurate notes, think about patterns, and where possible, take a video of any unusual behaviour.
This can all be presented to your vet for them to make a diagnosis about the potential causes. Don’t be tempted to diagnose them yourself – medical advice is always best.
In the meantime, if you want your dog to stop eating your underwear, it’s an easily solvable problem! Try to keep your laundry basket away from where your dog can access it. Positively reinforce desirable behaviours, and make sure that your pet is not bored or anxious.
Beyond that, you’re doing everything you can do as a good pet parent!