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Why does my dog lay on my clothes?

Your dog is looking peaceful, snuggled up all nice and cozy, but wait a minute… are those your clothes he’s asleep on?! While it can be quite sweet to see your dog doing this initially, it could become annoying if he keeps doing it. Not only do your clothes get crumpled and strewn around, but they end up covered in dog hair!

In this article, we look at some of the most common reasons why your dog might like to lay on your clothes and the steps you can take to help reduce the behavior.

Reasons why your dog might lay on your clothes

1.   Scent

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Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, with certain scents giving them a feeling of security and familiarity. Your dog may want to feel close to you by snuggling up to your smell, which will be strongest on your clothes. Some dogs will seek out items to lay on when you’re out of the house as a source of reassurance.

2.     Comfort and warmth

Some dogs will simply see a big pile of washing or bundle of clothes on a chair as a place that looks comfortable and warm. Small dogs or very young and elderly animals may want to seek out extra ways of keeping warm, especially in cold weather. You could try giving your dog extra blankets or bedding of his own to give him a more snuggly place to lay down. It could help if that’s what he seems to be craving.

3.     Separation anxiety

Dogs that are suffering from separation anxiety may resort to laying on your clothes when you are not around. This way they can still feel close to you even though you aren’t there. Instead of letting your dog seek out a pile of washing to lay on, you could donate an old jumper to leave in your dog’s bed or crate if you feel like he needs comforting in this way.

Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety can develop other issues like becoming destructive, vocalizing, or toileting inappropriately. So if you think that laying on your clothes is a symptom of this then you should take steps to help improve this behavior. Speaking to a qualified animal behaviorist can be helpful, as can using calming pheromone products in the house.

4.     Attention-seeking behavior

Some dogs will do anything to seek attention, whether that is positive or negative. By shouting, laughing, and clapping, when he is laying on your clothes you will be rewarding him with attention. Your dog may then continue to repeat this behavior in order to keep getting a reaction from you.

You should ensure that your dog receives plenty of positive interactions at other times in the day through grooming, play, and exercise. A dog that is bored and ignored will be more likely to resort to “naughty” behaviors to get attention.

5.     They don’t have a comfortable bed of their own

If your dog doesn’t have a comfortable bed of their own then they are likely to seek soft and cozy places to lie down elsewhere. Hard plastic beds or thin blankets won’t provide much cushioning from the hard floor, so a pile of clothes may look like a better alternative! Some dogs also don’t like where their bed is situated and could be looking for a quieter or less drafty spot to snooze in.

How to discourage your dog from laying on your clothes

If you don’t mind your dog laying on your clothes from time to time then you may not want to do anything. However, for other people, the behavior can start to become problematic.

Don’t make your clothes easily accessible

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One of the first things you could do is to tidy your clothes away! By not leaving cardigans, sports kits, or piles of washing lying around, it obviously becomes a lot harder for your dog to find a way to lay on your clothes. In some cases, you may need to consider securing wardrobe doors and washing baskets too, if your dog is the type to pull things out and help himself!

Crate train using positive reinforcement

Crates can be a good option for some dogs, as long as you make them nice and cozy with soft bedding. A crate can provide a safe space for your dog to hide in and may make them less likely to seek out piles of clothes.

The crate must be the right dimensions for your dog, allowing them enough space to stand and sit up in, as well as lie down and stretch out. You should never use the crate as a place of punishment otherwise your dog may develop an aversion to it. Follow these steps to help gradually introduce your dog to a crate:

  • Start by making it welcoming with comfy soft bedding and his favorite toys inside. Position the crate somewhere draft-free.
  • Make sure the door is secured open so that it doesn’t swing shut and scare him while he is getting used to the crate.
  • Start by throwing treats inside it, and praise him if he enters it.
  • You could increase the amount of time he spends in the crate by feeding him his meals in there.
  • Once he is comfortable going into his crate, try gently closing the door for very short periods. If your dog becomes distressed, stop and let him out. Build up the time gradually.
  • It is useful to teach your dog to accept the crate door being shut, as you may wish to transport him in it from time to time (e.g., car journeys). Otherwise, it is likely the crate door will just remain open at home so that he has free access in and out.
  • Remember, the crate is your dog’s safe space so don’t allow people to bother him when he’s in there, or climb in the crate with him. Small children will be particularly tempted to do this, so set boundaries.

Don’t reinforce the behavior

Don’t accidentally encourage your dog by reinforcing their behavior. By reacting to your dog by laughing, clapping, or stroking them when they lay on your clothes, you could be giving them an invitation to keep doing it.

Instead, you should give your dog the message that this is unacceptable by calmly giving a command like “off” or “bed” and praising him when he does the right thing. Give him a treat and a fuss when he does what you ask him to. Make sure all your family is sending out the same message. Your dog will become confused if one family member allows your dog to cozy up into their clothes, but others tell him not to.

Consider what was going on when the behavior started

If your dog started the behavior when he was very anxious, perhaps due to fireworks or thunder, then it is likely he was choosing your clothes for safety and security. He may keep going back to them now for this reason too. If your dog appears anxious or shows other behavioral issues you might want to seek professional help on how best to help your pet.

Provide an alternative place for your dog to lie down

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This is a simple one, but some pet parents forget to provide a comfortable alternative! Ensure your dog has a suitable-sized bed or crate that provides some cushioned support. You could put his favorite toys there too to make it even more inviting. Situate it somewhere warm and draft-free. Praise him whenever he lays in it and consider having a command word that directs him towards it, like “bed.”

Reduce separation anxiety

If your dog has separation anxiety, then you might find that he doesn’t want to leave your side and could start to show other undesirable behaviors like destroying things or howling and barking when left on his own. Laying on your clothes may end up being one of the less troublesome things your pet does. Being left on their own can feel extremely distressing to these dogs, even for short periods.

You may need to get professional help from a qualified animal behaviorist to tackle the problem effectively. As well as starting a training program, make sure your dog is getting out regularly for walks and receiving lots of positive mental stimulation. A dog that is tired and happy is less likely to suffer from behavioral issues.

Conclusion

There are a few different reasons why your dog may lay on your clothes. If the behavior is starting to frustrate you then make sure your pet has a suitable alternative bed and that any underlying behavioral concerns are addressed. Ensuring the whole family is consistent to avoid confusion is important too. And above all, make sure you hang your clothes up and tidy them away to avoid temptation in the first place!

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