Bringing a new puppy home often seems like a great idea, right up to the point you find your favorite sweater chewed to pieces. Chewing and gnawing are real problems in some dogs, especially in high-energy breeds and young puppies. If you've ever lost a shirt or pair of socks to a pup with a busy mouth, there's a good chance your dog is trying to tell you something.
Dogs need physical and mental stimulation every day. If your dog isn't getting enough exercise, he will look for his own ways to get rid of the extra energy. Sometimes this manifests in destructive habits like chewing -- on your clothes, on the furniture or on whatever else he can find. A bored dog will chew because he has nothing better to do. You can solve this problem by giving your pup appropriate chew toys and ensuring he gets plenty of vigorous exercise.
Some dogs suffer from separation anxiety. Chewing and other bad habits (barking, restlessness) will manifest only when the dog is left alone. If your dog is experiencing separation anxiety, he may chew on your clothes and other items in the house as a method for letting out the stress and coping with being alone. Chewing from separation anxiety can also be unhealthy for the dog -- some pups will chew on doors, cages and other items that can damage their teeth. Treating separation anxiety requires the aid of a professional animal behavior specialist.
If your dog is not getting enough food to eat, he may resort to eating your clothes and other items to help fill in the gaps. Dogs on restricted diets or those not receiving enough food to fuel their activities will look for other sources of nutrition, which could end up being your clothes. If your dog is ingesting clothing in lieu of simply chewing it up, it may be time to take him to the vet to ensure all of his dietary needs are being met. Ingesting non-foods can be extremely dangerous.
Much like humans, puppies go through a teething phase when their baby teeth fall out and their adult teeth come in. This process can cause discomfort for the animal, and he may end up chewing on whatever he can find to help reduce the pain. Puppies need to chew to ensure their teeth grow in a healthy manner, but it is on the owner to provide the dog with safe and appropriate chew toys. If you have questions about the best toys for teething puppies, talk to your veterinarian.
Taste, Feel and Smell
Some things are just fun to chew on. A puppy may munch on your clothing because he likes the texture, or because the fabric tastes good. Additionally, a dog will often chew on clothing that smells like his owner as a way of comforting himself in your absence. If your dog tends to focus on dirty clothes, his chewing could be related to how much he enjoys being close to you and your smell. Dogs with this type of chewing problems are sometimes drawn to clothing with your cologne, sweat or deodorant. A hamper with a lid is an excellent method for preventing this problem.
By Todd Bowerman
About the Author
Based primarily in Austin, Texas, Todd Bowerman has been working as a writer since 2004. He has provided numerous independent clients with ghostwriting and SEO copywriting services. Bowerman currently serves as editor-in-chief of Button Masher Online. He studied English at DePaul University.