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Why Do Dogs Eat Underwear? Vet-Reviewed Risks & Prevention Tips

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

dog chewing underwear

Vet approved

Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dogs are known to chew on inappropriate things. A common trope in movies and in reality is a dog chewing up an expensive pair of shoes. Sometimes, chewing on inappropriate things can include your underwear, which likely makes you wonder why on earth your dog would want to gnaw on such an item.

The main reason that dogs eat underwear is that it smells like their favorite people. However, it can also be because they are bored or have a physical or mental issue.

Unfortunately, dogs that chew on fabric and other inedible items are in danger of experiencing gastrointestinal obstruction.

Let’s look at why dogs engage in this behavior and how to keep your best friend safe.

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Why Do Dogs Eat Your Underwear?

There are several reasons that your dog might eat your underwear. Most are fairly harmless, while others are quite concerning. But whatever the reason, this behavior can lead to trouble, and needs to be addressed.

  • Smells like you: Anything that you wear will smell like you, which can be of comfort to your dog, especially when you’re not around. It might not seem like the most pleasant idea to you, but your dog isn’t embarrassed by underwear!
  • Teething: Puppies are the biggest chewers around! It’s partly because they explore their environment by putting things in their mouths, but they are also likely teething.
  • Boredom: Dogs are known to become destructive when bored, so your underwear might just be in the line of fire.
  • Pica: Pica is when an animal regularly consumes items that are not food. This can include garbage, plastic, feces, rocks, and cloth/underwear. This is an obsessive-compulsive disorder but might also be due to poor nutrition or a medical condition.
  • Attention seeking: Sometimes, if a dog wants your attention, they’ll do naughty things to gain it. If you’ve ever reacted, even in a negative way, to your dog chewing on your clothing, they’ll likely try it again when they want more of your attention.

It’s essential that you pay attention to your dog and try to understand where this behavior is coming from, which can help you decide what you can do to help, and when to contact your veterinarian.

A couple undressed in a hurry threw on a dog clothes and underwear
Image Credit: Slava Dumchev, Shutterstock

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What Are the Risks of Dogs Eating Underwear?

While dogs eating underwear sounds funny, it’s actually quite problematic. The primary risk that can result from this behavior is a gastrointestinal blockage.

Gastrointestinal Blockage

If your dog is actually eating the underwear or any other non-food item, there’s a significant risk of gastrointestinal (GI) blockage. The object can partially or completely create a blockage in the intestines, preventing food and liquid from passing through. In addition to causing a physical obstruction, this can also lead to imbalanced electrolytes and dehydration, or even intestinal rupture and peritonitis.

Signs of a GI obstruction can include:
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or difficulty defecating
  • Stomach pain
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness

The main signs of a GI blockage are vomiting but not pooping. If the dog can’t poop out the object, surgery will be necessary. If you suspect that your dog ate something that might cause an obstruction, see your vet immediately as this can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation.

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How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Your Underwear

The most obvious solution is to ensure that you don’t leave your underwear in areas accessible to your dog. Make sure everyone in the household does the same. If necessary, have a family meeting, and impress upon everyone how critical this is for your dog’s safety.

1. Engagement

If your dog is eating inappropriate things because they are bored, you should ensure that they are getting enough mental and physical stimulation. Depending on their age and breed, they should be walked for the appropriate length of time and frequency. Speak to your vet if you’re not sure how much you should be walking your dog.

You should also give them enrichment toys, including robust chew toys, to keep them busy. But you should also invest in toys that you can personally use to engage your dog, such as throwing balls or a tug-of-war rope. You can even get your dog involved in scent work and consider taking them in for obedience training if they need extra help.

Spending quality time playing with and exercising your dog will go a long way in reducing many of these worrisome behaviors.

Dark Fawn Puggle Dog Laying on Owners Bed with toy
Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

2. Training

Arguably, the two most important commands to teach your dog are to come when called, and to drop whatever item they have in their mouth.

If you haven’t trained your dog to “drop it,” now is the time to do so. You want your dog to drop whatever they’ve picked up in their mouths, particularly if it’s a safety concern.

Some dogs turn it into a game and enjoy it when you chase them around, so training them to drop an item on command can be the perfect way to deal with this scenario. Most dogs will want to drop the item in exchange for a small treat that you’ll provide them with during training.


3. Caught in the Act

If you catch your dog in the middle of chewing on your underwear, do not punish or yell at them! Stick with positive reinforcement methods, and swap the clothing with a treat or a chew toy. Follow up with plenty of praise when your dog drops your underwear.


4. Veterinary Care

If your dog seems to have other signs of something wrong beyond chewing on strange things, you should take them to see the vet. There could be an underlying illness or behavioral problem that needs medical attention.

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What Should You Do If Your Dog Just Ate Your Underwear?

If you catch your dog ingesting your underwear, whether you know for certain that they swallowed it or not, take them to the vet. The sooner your dog is checked, the better. If the clothing is in your dog’s stomach, they might be able to throw it up, or your veterinarian can remove it through endoscopy, with your dog under light anesthesia.

They might also hydrate your dog using subcutaneous (under the skin) or IV fluids. This can potentially enable the foreign material to pass through the digestive system naturally.

Regardless of the scenario, your best bet should be to call your vet for your next steps rather than waiting to see if a problem develops.

boxer dog stealing socks
Image Credit: Jana Behr, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

Dogs can swallow all manner of things, and if your dog is in the habit of chewing up your underwear, don’t feel embarrassed, as you’re definitely not the only one!

Just remember to keep your underwear and any other clothing that your dog likes to chew out of reach. Consider getting a dog-proof laundry hamper, or put it in your closed closet.

Also, speak to your vet, particularly if you’ve followed a few of these tips and your dog seems to ignore treats and toys in favor of your clothing. This could be an underlying issue that you’ll need help and support with.

We hope that you’ve learned something here and will be able to stop the behavior before your dog eats something harmful.


Featured Image Credit: Tara Lynn and Co, Shutterstock

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