As a dog owner, you are aware that a dog will frequently use their mouth to express their feelings or communicate something. You may have seen them mouth and nibble themselves or you. It’s obvious for you to wonder why they behave in such a way. Likewise, nibbling on clothes is a similar activity which makes many dog owners go nuts and they often ask pet behaviourists this question – why does my dog nibble on my clothes?
The simple answer that they get from a behaviourist or a vet is that the dog is simply bored and acting out in frustration of boredom. But, is that it? Probably not. So, keep reading the article and you will get different reasons why they nibble on your clothes and some tips on how you can control this behaviour.
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Why Does My Dog Nibble On My Clothes?
When a dog is nibbling on your clothes, there are many underlying reasons for them to do so. Some of the common reasons are:
- They are willing to play but you refuse, as a result, they switch their focus to something else, in this case nibbling on your clothes.
- They just want your attention. Yes, it is possible you ignored their calling gesture and this resentment makes them act weirdly.
- Separation anxiety is also one of the main reasons why your dog nibbles on your clothes.
There are many other reasons for dogs nibbling your clothes. Let’s analyse them.
Puppies are adorable and every activity of theirs feels pleasant until they begin chewing. When your pup’s teeth start developing, they will start testing their brand-new teeth on various things. This means they will chew on any random stuff they find lying around the house.
If you are thinking that this doesn’t cause much damage, think twice. Their teeth are not yet fully developed but, still are sharp as needles. Their chewing behaviour is normal because they are also trying to tackle the uneasiness feeling of growing teeth. So, you will see them chew boards, toys, etc. Your clothes just happened to be there in their way and hence, you cannot blame them for this.
#2 Showing affection and love
Your furry friend will express their love and affection by nibbling on your stuff. So, if you see them nibble your clothes it’s possible they are complimenting your positive behaviour towards them and showing you their love for you. Because the clothes have your smell in them and they associate the piece of cloth with you and use it as a medium of expressing their feelings.
#3 Lack of mental stimulation
A dog needs mental stimulation. Lack of mental stimulation will cause stress and they will start chewing and biting stuff. They don’t have any smartphones or social media friends to play with. So, you can understand why they are nibbling your clothes. Hence, it’s important for you to provide them with ample mental exercise, for instance, puzzle food treats.
When you are preoccupied with some activity or away, your furry friend gets bored. Even if you give them toys or some food treat to play with, they will look for different sources or activities for overcoming their boredom. So, when they feel like there is nothing to do, and your clothes are in close proximity, they will nibble on them.
#5 Just want to play
When you don’t spend enough time with your furry friend’s urge to play with you, they will try to get your attention in a different manner. You may have seen them randomly chew on things or bite on different stuff or nibble your ears. While they nibble on stuff, they are figuring out which method worked in getting your attention.
So, when they nibble your clothes, they are hoping you will take away the clothes and possibly throw the ball or a toy for fetching. If they do succeed, you will see them repeatedly nibble on your clothes just so you play with them.
#6 Separation anxiety
If you are out for work and leave your furry friend alone at home, they will suffer from separation anxiety. Your clothes have your scent and it’s the closest thing for them to feel your presence. Hence, they start nibbling on them and try to cope with this anxiety.
However, this behaviour is not as destructive as them chewing your skirting board, wooden material or any other random stuff. So, it’s not bad behaviour it’s just that it can become a habit and can possibly suffer from mental health problems.
#7 Grooming you
At times, your dog will not hesitate to nibble the clothes you’re wearing. They have a knack for cleaning themselves and the same instinct kicks in when they see your clothes having some dirty fleas or dirt in them. You are laying in the bed and they might hop on and start nibbling your shirt if they feel there is any need for cleaning.
#8 Seeking attention
Dogs love attention and it’s possible that they are nibbling your clothes to get your attention. Yes, it’s a bit strange, but, it’s possible that when they previously tried calling you with a certain gesture you ignored their call for some reason. They try different ways to grab your attention and nibbling your cloth was probably the only one to which you responded.
Anticipating the behaviour of a hungry dog is tough. And leaving them hungry can affect their behaviour and they might also get aggressive. If your dog is left hungry frequently they will start chewing stuff and nibbling different things. They are eager to hop on to anything that seems chewable.
So, you will see them nibbling your clothes in a genuine attempt of eating them. It’s best to provide them with food so that they won’t nibble your clothes when they feel hungry.
Additional reasons for dogs nibbling on clothes
We saw some of the prominent reasons why a dog nibbles on your clothes. Now, let’s have a peek at some of the additional reasons you must consider for such behaviour:
- Taste of the clothes
Some dogs like the taste of the clothes and this is one of the reasons why they will nibble on your clothes. But, what makes dogs like the taste of clothes?
You might have used some scent or spilt some drink or food items on your clothes. Regardless, any such smell may lure your dog and make them think that there is something to taste. In addition, some dogs even like the taste of sweat that is on the cloth.
- Dog’s Breed
The breed type and genetics also have a significant impact on such nibbling behaviour. For instance, German shepherds have the instinct to bite at the feet of their herding cattle. Such genetics often make them nibble their owner’s clothes.
In addition, there are other breeds that show such genetic behaviour and chew more than normal dogs. Here is a small list:
- Border collies – are active and one of the most intelligent breeds. They like chewing and keeping themselves engaged with this activity.
- Chihuahua – these dogs are energetic and love exploring new things around them and that’s why they are more likely to show more chewing behaviour.
- Labradors – like chewing but they are also known to bite on stuff.
- Beagle – these dogs are more known for chewing and biting.
- Jack Russell – chews a lot when they are a puppy. The chewing is because of their curiosity, possible teething or just boredom.
- Golden retrievers – have a knack for holding stuff in their mouths and that’s why they chew more.
- Weimaraners – these breed dogs are known for chewing and swallowing different things.
- Lack of discipline
In general, aggressive dogs have shown a lack of discipline i.e. disobeying commands, acting on their instincts with aggression, exhibiting dangerous or destructive behaviour and so on. Normally, dogs that are not trained will show such impulsive behaviour.
The lack of training makes them nibble on stuff, in this case, nibble on clothes and tear them. Because of such uncontrolled behaviour, you will see them bite you as well. So, it’s crucial to train such dogs and seek professional help before this behaviour elevates.
- Unintentional encouragement
You may not think of it, but, when you respond to your dog’s nibbling activity with affection. They will remember it and the next time they will repeat the same activity. For instance, they chewed on your clothes while playing with you and they got an affectionate response such as a hug from them.
This will indirectly encourage the nibbling behaviour and they will continue doing so in the hope of getting a similar positive response.
Tips For Stopping a Dog From Nibbling Clothes
Dog nibbling your clothes can really get annoying. The first and foremost issue is the damage done to the clothes. As a dog owner, no matter how much you love your dog, you won’t accept this behaviour unless you have tons of useless clothes for them to chew on.
Here are some tips you can consider to stop your furry friend from nibbling on your clothes:
- Play with them
Set up a routine where you can play with them and spend more time. This will help you manage their separation anxiety, keep them busy with different activities and improve the bonding. Doesnt matter if the session is not long, what’s crucial is you spend time.
When you start playing frequently, your furry friend will not nibble as before. Because just following this routine helps kill their boredom, provides physical exercise, and provides mental stimulation.
- Use distraction
When you see your dog nibbling your clothes, you can try distracting them. Use toys, bones or something that is chewable. Throwing a toy or bone is surely going to work because they love bone and anytime you throw a toy, they get excited with the idea that you wish to play with them.
Now, when you successfully distract them, use this buffer to hide your clothes. Otherwise, there is no point in distracting them as they will start nibbling your clothes again if you don’t continue playing.
- Reject the behaviour and train to obey commands
At times, simply playing or distracting your dog won’t work. So, it’s crucial you consider being strict and refuse them to nibble on your clothes. You can train them and set up some commands that will suggest that this behaviour is not tolerable.
Commands like “No”, “Leave it”, and “Drop it” will help them realise that it’s not acceptable. You can use a small food treat as the bait for this training. Following are some steps to help you with their training:
- Take the food treat and put it in your hand. Show them once and then cover the treat with both your hands. Your dog will try and get it so, allow them to smell and lick your hand.
- Once they stop trying, open your hands and offer them the treat to eat. If they make an attempt t eat close your hands and cover their treat. Repeat this a few times.
- Now, when your dog does stops trying to eat the treat, it’s time you reward them or give the same food treat. If your dog ignores the treat then the training has worked.
- After your dog ignores the treat, the next step is to drop the treat and make sure they don’t eat it. Once you drop the treat, associate the command, for instance, leave it and see if they follow. If your dog listens to your command offer the high-reward treat. This will help them realise that if they are obedient they will get rewarded.
Now, you are probably wondering how this will help tackle the nibbling behaviour. Well, once you use the commands and the dog follows, the follow-up food treat or reward will make them believe that it’s good to leave stuff untouched when you say so.
Hence, the next time you instruct them to leave the cloth, they will stop nibbling. But, they will expect you to provide some reward or food treat.
- Use bitter spray
There are many sprays with bitter fragrance and you can definitely consider using one such spray on your clothes. So, even if your dog is willing to nibble your clothes, they will avoid doing so because of the bitter fragrance of the spray you used on the clothing.
- Avoid encouraging the behaviour
Often dog owners don’t realise but, they are partly responsible for their dog’s nibbling behaviour. No, I am not talking about spending less time, you are unintentionally encouraging the nibbling behaviour. Yes, you read that right!
When your dog hops and nibbles on your clothes, you consider it a positive behaviour and respond with hugs and kisses. So, this instance registers a positive response in their mind and whenever they will find your clothes lying around in the house, they will recall the event and start nibbling on them. Hence, it’s best to avoid encouraging such behaviour.
- Help the pup in the teething stage
If your puppy is teething, they are likely to experience pain for the first few months. This is the reason why they often get aggressive and will bite and nibble on stuff. As a dog owner, it’s crucial you help them in this phase. Here are some points you can consider:
- Give them chew toys – using toys with different shapes can provide a good variance to your pup while they chew. The toy can be hard, or soft just ensure it’s not small or breaks easily. Because ingestion of these pieces can cause blockage in their digestive tract.
- Food treats – you can provide food that will help with chewing and improve their dental health. In fact, you can also try giving the food in the toys.
Things to avoid while controlling nibbling behaviour
You saw some tips for handling nibbling behaviour in dogs. But, there are also certain aspects you need to avoid while you try to control this behaviour. Below are some of the things you must absolutely avoid:
- Excessive exercise: activity is good for the dogs but, you must not overdo it. Because at times you get enthusiastic and make your dog exercise more than usual but, this can also cause nibbling behaviour.
- Rushing with the training: when you train your dog, it’s important you maintain a slow pace in the beginning. Your intent is positive but, pushing your dog to execute its training can also have a negative impact on their mind and they may show nibbling behaviour.
- Yelling at the dog: in any scenario, whether your dog is disobeying your command or not following the training, you must not yell at them. Yelling or scolding them will make them more aggressive and they will behave even worse.
Myths of Nibbling Behaviour
There are some common myths about nibbling and it’s important to debunk them. Here are some of the myths that are circulating around the community:
#1 Nibbling is a sign of dominance
Dogs never nibble to show their dominance or mark their territory. This behaviour is simply a reflection of a spectrum of emotions. They will nibble out of love, or act on their excitement. Also, there is no notion of suggesting dominance in dogs.
#2 Nibbling means aggression
Some dogs will show nibbling behaviour because of their aggressive personality but, it’s not always you can directly associate such behaviour with aggression. There are many dogs who try and reflect affectionate behaviour or nibble because of their curious nature.
#3 Nibbling indicates the dog is hungry
This assumption is not entirely incorrect. At times you will see dogs nibble on clothes because of hungriness. However, in such cases, they normally begin to chew hard and even try to swallow the material.
#4 Nibbling suggests a lack of training
It’s not necessary that every untrained dog will nibble on different stuff. Some dogs are well-trained and well-groomed but, still, reflect the nibbling behaviour.
Yes, it’s fine if you allow your dog to nibble on you. This behaviour is normal and unless your dog is prone to aggressive behaviour it’s alright. However, there are many trainers who recommend not allowing this activity. They reason that continuous nibbling may result in an accidental bite.
Dogs nibble on blankets for many reasons. The common reasons are boredom and separation anxiety. Also, the chewing of the blanket material gives them the feeling of chewing gum.
Generally, nibbling and mouthing are considered normal behaviour but, some dogs may end up biting because of their aggression or fear. Also, it’s difficult to identify whether a dog is biting, nibbling or playfully mouthing. But, whenever they are trying to show affection, try to gain attention, or simply get bored you will see them nibble on different stuff.
Nibbling on cloth may not cause any health issues but, if your dog accidentally ingests the clothing material after nibbling or chewing, then it can cause some serious health issues. A serious digestive system blockage will cause dogs pain and they will find it difficult to poop. If unnoticed the dog may even die.
Why Does My Dog Nibble On My Clothes – Authors’ Remarks
The dog will nibble on your clothes because of a different range of emotions. Affection, boredom, stress, excitement, or anxiety are some of the emotional prospects explaining the behaviour. In general, the behaviour is normal, and not concerning.
However, if the dog starts behaving like this frequently it’s a matter of concern. They will start damaging the clothes and it’s also possible they may accidentally eat the material. Their behaviour may get aggressive and it’s best to consult a behaviourist regarding this issue. You can find a clinical behaviourist for dogs with the help of RSPCA.
A behaviourist may suggest a few exercises and some tricks on feeding for managing such behaviour. You can try following these instructions yourself or simply hire a professional dog trainer for better results.