Have a problem with your dog constantly stealing and eating your underwear? You're not alone! This behavior is more common than most people think. Young puppies are prone to ingesting foreign objects and chewing on items that aren't food. Adults can partake, too.
Canines are naturally curious, and one of the best ways to investigate an item is to chew on it. That's all good and fine, but you should always do your best to stop your dog from swallowing anything that's not food.
Even clothing can turn into a choking hazard if you're not careful!
So that leaves us with one question: Why do dogs like to eat underwear?
10 Reasons Why Your Dog Eats Your Underwear
There's no telling what's going on in your dog's innocent little mind. However, we can use canine psychology to better understand why they seek undergarments. Here are some of the most likely reasons why your underwear is your dog's newest chew toy!
#1. - Pica Syndrome
Pica syndrome is a psychological abnormality that forces dogs to eat things not part of their regular diet. The sole symptom of the condition is ingesting non-food items.
That could be small toys, rocks, or your underwear.
Occasional accidental ingestion isn't a significant cause for concern as long as the object passes. But when it becomes a chronic urge, you're looking at a pretty serious issue.
Pica syndrome can get out of hand very quickly if you don't address it. Before you know it, your dog will have compaction and severe digestion issues to tackle.
It's a form of addiction that dogs can't control. In most cases, it's triggered by another health condition.
For example, dogs with diabetes, parasites, malnutrition, or even irritable bowel syndrome might turn to non-food substances to find relief.
The trouble is that Pica syndrome forces dogs to continue with the odd behaviors well after the initial problem subsides.
The good news is that Pica syndrome is treatable. Sometimes, something as simple as a dietary change can do the trick.
However, other cases might require muzzling, intense training, and visits to a behaviorist.
#2. - They Want Attention
Have you ever had to chase your dog around the house in an attempt to get your underwear back? No matter how humorous that event might seem now, it likely taught your dog some bad behaviors.
Dogs thrive on attention from their human loved ones.
If they could, they'd spend every minute of the day by your side! When you don't reciprocate those calls for attention, dogs will turn to extreme measures.
Suddenly, those fun memories of you chasing your dog around the house come into mind. So, dogs will repeat the behavior just to get you to pay attention to them!
#3. - A Similar Weaning Sensation
Young pups that are weaned off their mother's milk too soon often resort to eating underwear. It's a strange connection, but it's something that provides peace and comfort to a puppy that had to grow up too fast.
You see, your underwear has your scent. If the mother isn't around, you're the closest thing a scared pup has.
They turn to sucking and chewing on underwear to replace those feelings of safety they had before they were weaned.
It's best to wait until your pup is seven or eight weeks old before you consider weaning. If you didn't have any choice in the matter, don't fret.
You can always train the behavior out of your dog by using a treat to keep them busy.
#4. - Teething
Puppies will begin to develop teeth pretty early on. Only a few weeks into their lifespan, and young teeth will start to emerge from the gums.
Teething is just as uncomfortable and painful for a puppy as it is for a human baby. So, don't be surprised if you see your pooch exhibiting some destructive behaviors.
They'll chew just about anything they can get their paws on.
However, your underwear has the extra benefit of your sense. It's not uncommon for young puppies to prefer that above anything else.
Teething can last for several months, depending on your dog's growth cycle and breed. Some canines won't have their adult teeth until about six or seven months of age.
The best way to put a stop to this behavior is to buy your dog a dedicated chew toy. Many specially designed toys are available.
They're made to alleviate discomfort during the teething phase. You can even purchase human teething toys. They work just as well as puppy ones!
#5. - A Lack of Mental Stimulation
Does your dog spend a lot of time by themselves? If so, don't be surprised if they start chewing on your underwear! Bored dogs are destructive dogs!
Canines need constant mental stimulation. While they spend many hours sleeping, those awake hours have to contain fun activities that expend their energy.
Otherwise, your dog will get bored and look to physical objects to have fun.
It's a unique quirk that all dogs have. Chewing is the solution for everything! Hyperactive breeds are more likely to get bored quickly, so you need to provide some form of mental stimulation.
Invest in puzzle toys and other gadgets that can keep them occupied while you're away.
#6. - The Scent of Bodily Fluids
This might sound a little gross, but it's worth mentioning. Your underwear contains trace amounts of urine, feces, and even menstrual blood. Those are all things dogs love.
Canines rely on body scent for many things, so your underwear is like the forbidden fruit they can always detect.
The underwear in your hamper has an even more potent smell. As a result, it's constantly calling your dog! Even if you can't smell anything, your dog certainly can.
Their sense of smell is far more powerful than our own. For this reason, the trace amounts of waste on the fabric are like a buffet of scents for your dog.
There's not much you can do about addressing the urge to investigate bodily fluids. That's an innate urge that all dogs have.
What you can do, however, is limit access.
Try keeping your dirty clothes in a sealed hamper. Airtight is best, but even one that has an inaccessible lid will do.
Try to keep your dirty laundry away from your dog as much as possible.
You can also adopt a more frequent cleaning schedule to keep your underwear fresh and unappealing to your canine companion.
#7. - Separation Anxiety
In many cases, separation anxiety is to blame for your dog eating underwear.
Don't let their playful and strong demeanor fool you. Dogs are sensitive creatures. They can fall prey to stress and anxiety when you're not around.
The moment you leave your home, dogs can fall into a tizzy worrying about you and the unknowns of their environment.
Dogs often resort to chewing to cope with their emotions. Some will chew on furniture. However, others will seek out something of yours. Remember:
Your underwear has your scent. So, it provides natural comfort when you're not around.
Overcoming separation anxiety isn't easy. However, proper training will pave the way to noticeable change. Work with a trainer and your vet to find solutions.
You can distract your dog with new toys, expose them to calming pheromone sprays, or pay for a sitter to ensure that they're never alone.
Whatever you do, addressing the separation anxiety will likely stop the underwear eating.
#8. - An Opportunity to Bond
Sometimes, the reason for your dog's underwear chewing is pretty innocent. Many dogs will look for your underwear because they want to be around your scent.
It has nothing to do with separation anxiety or emotional problems. Instead, it's simply a way to bond and get closer to you!
Dogs do this a lot when they're around heavily scented objects. They'll roll around in it or try to eat it. Think of the behavior as an attempt to absorb your scent.
It's a way to feel closer to you and share a bond.
#9. - Protective Instincts
Dogs are scent-focused animals. All of those weird quirks they do probably revolve around some instinctive scent-based urge. Eating your underwear is no different.
As mentioned earlier, your underwear is filled with your unique smell. Dogs may use it to their advantage if they feel like trouble is on the horizon.
In the wild, dogs will rely on scent to stay safe from would-be predators.
Eating your underwear could mean one of two things.
On the one hand, it can be an act of protection and loyalty. Your dog might think that predators are in the vicinity, so they want to hide your scent to keep you safe.
In wild packs, dogs will do their best to mask smells so that predators can't find them.
Alternatively, eating your underwear could be a way to mask their own scent. You're the pack leader, and your pup probably thinks you can take on any predator that comes your way.
If they're feeling a little vulnerable, they might try to eat your underwear to take on your scent and seem more intimidating to possible predators.
#10. - Compulsive Behaviors
Finally, underwear eating could be a sign of a compulsive disorder.
Many dogs develop compulsive behaviors. Some are genetically predisposed to them, while others develop issues due to environmental factors and stress. Whatever the case may be, eating your underwear becomes a chronic issue that dogs can't help but do.
It's similar to the Pica syndrome we discussed earlier. However, compulsive chewing and underwear eating is an entirely different monster.
It's a mental issue that can be more challenging to overcome than Pica syndrome.
Your best bet here is to work with a specialist for treatment. The key is to identify triggers behind the behavior and provide healthier alternatives your dog can fall back on.
Hopefully, you've gained some insight into why your dog eats your underwear. While the issue might seem like nothing more than a behavioral quirk, it's a pretty severe issue you should address immediately. Undergarments aren't safe for consumption!
Your dog could choke on the fabric or experience a wide range of health complications. Don't ignore this oddball behavior.
There's a lot you can do to limit access. Try buying a secure hamper or trying out some chew deterrent sprays. If all else fails, you can work with a trainer to develop reasonable solutions that stick.