Why Does My Dog Lay on My Clothes?

Ashamed dog laying on owner's clothes

Dogs want your unique scent, which is on your clothes. It represents the security of their “pack”. Also, they feel more secure at home when they put their own scent on objects. In addition, the clothes may be closer to you than their bed is; laying out clothes may signal that you’re going out; they may not be happy with their bed, or they may need more attention.

Here is an explanation of what’s going on when your dog is laying on your clothes, along with tips on how to avoid it happening.

Your Scent Represents Pack Security

Nothing is more important to a dog than feeling secure in its “pack”. You are the pack leader, the most critical person in their social structure.

With their exceptional sense of smell, dogs can smell your unique scent even in freshly laundered clothes. A pile of clothes contains so much scent that they are naturally drawn to the security of its smell, the scent of their people and their home pack.

Dogs will roll on the clothes to put that scent of family and home onto their bodies, and they love to rest in the scent. If the clothes are dirty, so much the better!

What You Can Do

Try using a blanket for yourself on the couch or on your bed for a week or two, then pass it on to your dog.

Lining their bed with the scent of their people may make the bed extra attractive to them.

They Feel More Secure when They Put Their Scent on Things

Dogs have a unique scent, too, and they have a behavior called “resource guarding”. When they think an object is important, they will rub their bodies onto it to signal to any other dogs that it belongs to them.

When they can smell their own scent on objects around them, they feel more secure. It gives them the good feeling of being home and safe. This is why they like to rub and roll their own scent onto your clothes.

What You Can Do

If you don’t want your dog to lie on, or roll on, your clothes, it’s important not to leave the clothes out.

It might be best to keep clothes hampers or laundry hampers in closets with doors or on benches or shelves where the dog cannot jump.

The Clothes Are Closer to You than Their Bed

Many dogs like their beds, but the thing they like best is to be close to where you are. Most dogs love and crave the company of their owners. If they can’t be right beside you, they at least want to be where they can see you.

If you spend your time in one area of the house, but their bed is somewhere else, they’ll prefer to sleep on the clothes pile that’s closer to where you are. 

What You Can Do

Your dog’s bed doesn’t have to stay in one spot; you can move it to be where you are in the house at different times of the day.

A kitchen or living room spot might be best for the day, allowing your dog to see you and feel part of things, even when they are resting. You can then bring the dog bed into the bedroom at night or back to the room where your dog sleeps.

Laying out Clothes May Signal that You’re Going Out

Your dog may have learned that when you change clothes, you’re about to go out. They may feel separation anxiety and suddenly want the comforting scent of your clothes.

What You Can Do

If you have an old piece of clothing, leave it with your dog while you are out. Allow the dog to rest on your bed, if you are comfortable with that – perhaps on the blanket that you will transfer to its bed at a later stage.

Do your best to provide your dog with the reassuring scent of you and your family members while you are out.

Also, don’t leave your dog too long: separation anxiety is very individual, and you need to become a good judge of how long you can leave your specific pet.

They Aren’t Happy with Their Bed

Like people, every dog has a different preference for how their bed should feel. Beds can be soft or firm, smooth or textured, a tight cozy fit or a big space to stretch out on.

It may be that the bed you’ve provided your dog is not a good fit for its preferences.

This may not correlate to the size of the dog: a big Saint Bernard may love to be squeezed into a tight, high-sided bed, and a tiny Pomeranian may need a bed twice their size so they can stretch out and roll around.

The texture is important, too: some love a fluffy bed, some a smooth bed, and some a roughly textured fabric. 

What You Can Do

You could try lining their bed with different textures for a few days each: a smooth sheet, a soft polar blanket, or an old towel will all provide different textures.

You could also try a few different styles of inexpensive beds to see which one your dog prefers.

They Miss You when You’re Out

Dogs may lay on your clothes because you’re out, and they are missing you. Climbing into that reassuring pile of scent helps them feel calmer and connected to you.

They may have separation anxiety or a milder anxiety known as separation intolerance. Most dogs find it difficult to cope when left alone.

What You Can Do

According to Pet MD, helping a dog feel less anxious when you are out takes time and patience. If the dog only has mild separation anxiety, it can help if you play a mentally challenging game together before you go out.

You might hide a toy and look for it together or give your dog some simple training, such as giving a high five. The mental stimulation of learning and “working” can leave your dog naturally feeling more ready for a rest when you go out.

Separation anxiety is a complex condition and common in dogs, so if your dog shows more than mild symptoms, it’s a good idea to get the assistance of a vet, who can assist with medication and support strategies if needed, or a behaviorist.

They Want More of Your Attention

If your dog is aware that they are being a bit naughty by laying on your clothes, they may need more attention from you.

While dogs do love to just fit in with the family, they don’t do well unless they are also getting some of your direct attention every day.

Dogs need your training, affection, interaction, and positive emotional time: an hour every day of direct attention is a minimum for most dogs to be emotionally healthy and responsive to your commands. If your dog is intelligent, it will need more time than an hour.

What You Can Do

Dogs need to keep learning and growing in their skills, being presented with achievable challenges or puzzles to which they can think about and apply themselves.

They need the praise and rewards that come with success – and the process of learning will provide you with a lot of laughs that build the relationship between the two of you.

They Like to Burrow Into or Under a Soft Place

We know there’s nothing so soothing as rubbing our faces on warm, soft clothes fresh from the dryer. Why wouldn’t a dog love to burrow into this softness?

Dogs have a nesting instinct, partly to keep them hidden from predators in the wild while they sleep and partly to make a safe place to have puppies. It’s natural for them to carry bedding around, dig through it, or go under clothes like they would under a blanket.

What You Can Do

Try identifying what your dog finds most soothing, and aim to provide this in their bed. If it likes to get under a blanket, covered dog beds are available.

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