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Why Does My Dog Sniff My Clothes?

dog sniffing clothes

Dog owners know all too well that our canine friends have some odd behaviors. Often, we’re left wondering, what is running through that head of theirs? You may have even had that exact thought while watching your dog sniff your clothing with intent. If so, keep reading. This article will help you understand:

  • Important things to know about dogs and their sense of smell
  • Why dogs sniff clothing
  • Why your dog may steal your dirty laundry
  • When you should be concerned

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Dogs and Their Noses: A Super Alliance

If you’re a seasoned dog owner, you know all too well that sniffing things takes up about half of a dog’s day. If you’re new to the doggy life, get ready for many sniff-stops when you’re walking or spending time with your dog.

So why do dogs sniff so much? Many experts say that scent is the way that dogs understand their surroundings. Essentially, it’s the language that they know best, and in most cases, they’re able to understand more about something or someone than we are through scent alone.

Their noses provide an array of information that is simply unrecognizable to us as humans. For example, dogs can smell pheromones in a much more intense way than we can. Pheromones are chemicals that all animals release, indicating things like sexual status, health, and mood.

Additionally, dogs can smell separately with each nostril! So when they’re sniffing away, they’re getting a bigger picture than what we would get by smelling something.

And not only is the picture bigger, but it’s more concise, too. When humans smell something multifaceted, we usually take in everything mashed together as one scent.

When a dog smells something complex, it’s able to smell separate components and registers what each smell is and how long it’s been there. By being able to sense how long a smell has been there, dogs can track the direction of where the possessor of the scent has gone.

Canine experts like Dr. Michael T. Nappier of the Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine have found that dogs’ noses contain up to 300 million receptors.

That’s quite a jump from the human nose, which has around 6 million receptors dedicated to scent. The percentage of the canine brain that processes smell is also much bigger than ours.

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Why Does My Dog Sniff My Clothing?

With all that in mind, hopefully, you’ve attained more understanding as to why dogs are so intent on sniffing anything they can. But what’s the attraction to clothing? Naturally, our scent gradually rubs off on our clothes throughout the day, so when your dog is sniffing your clothes, it’s usually just trying to get a whiff of your scent.

Our scent can be comforting to our dogs. We are their family, and essentially, their pack. Getting a few whiffs of our scent can be reassuring to them because of how familiar it is.

It can also let them in on our mood and let them know if we’re okay. Even though your dog can see and be near you, smelling you can make them feel extra content.

If your dog sniffs your clothing when you get home, they may be trying to gather information about where you’ve been as well. By sniffing your clothes, your dog may be smelling the scent of where you were earlier, what you ate, and who you were with, especially if it involved other dogs.

Why Your Dog May Steal Your Dirty Laundry

For humans, smells have a wide range of associations. Some scents make us cringe and possibly even trigger a vomiting reflex. Whereas others can make us feel attractive, calm us down, and even trigger emotions or memories.

Even though we aren’t as adept as dogs in smelling things, scent bears a heavyweight for us, and we’re quick to cast judgment on things based on their scent.

For dogs, scent is an entirely different story. There really are no good or foul smells, and smell doesn’t tend to get an emotional reaction out of dogs. Scent is just information for dogs, an they have a much more neutral approach. Neutral doesn’t mean detached, though. Dogs will still attach heavily to scent, which is why they’re so keen on smelling you.

If you’ve been disgusted by the act of your dog stealing your dirty underwear or rolling in your dirty laundry pile, you can push those feelings aside with the knowledge that dogs don’t register those smells as “dirty”. Instead, they are just getting an extra pungent scent of you and the places you go when wearing said clothing.

If you have a puppy on your hands, another reason for stealing dirty laundry is simply out of boredom. A puppy might have learned that running off with your dirty underwear gets your attention, so it’ll then gravitate toward that when possible. Be sure to tuck your laundry away to keep puppies from ingesting your clothes when they get too hasty.

When You Should Be Concerned

As mentioned, the primary reason for dogs sniffing and stealing your clothing is just to get the most potent scent of you that they can. If you’ve noticed your dog obsessing over your clothes, it might point to some attachment issues.

Some people notice that their dogs will steal or even tear up their clothing when out of the house. For example, if your dog gets into your dirty hamper every time you leave, it could mean that it experiences separation anxiety when you’re gone and is trying to calm itself down with your scent.

It’s important to understand that dogs are pack creatures, so if someone is a part of their pack, they expect always to be together. Dogs don’t have any desire to be alone, and that’s just their natural way of being.

You can help your dog feel closer to you by spending quality time with it when you are together, such as playing or laying in close quarters with it.

You can also buy dog toys that have a pouch where you can insert your dirty clothing within. This allows your dog to have something with your scent that’s theirs to hold on to, so it may help in steering them away from reaching for your clothes.

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