Tips to Stop a Dog From Tugging on Clothing

Teach “leave it” and “drop it.” Training your dog to refocus his attention before he picks something up with his teeth (“leave it”) or to let go of something he should not have in his mouth (“drop it”) can help put a stop to mouthing inappropriate objects. For both commands, start training with items that are low in value to your dog — something he will willingly leave or drop — and work up to more desirable items (in this case, clothing). Reward success with a treat and follow up by redirecting to another activity, like a down stay or a fetching another toy. When he has mastered the “leave it” or “drop it” command, shift the reward so that it comes after the replacement behavior. That helps to reinforce the desired behavior and fade the mouthing behavior.

Replace mouthing with something more acceptable. I worked with a Pit bull who greeted her family when they returned home by enthusiastically grabbing at their clothes. To defuse this behavior, her humans initiated an acceptable replacement activity as soon as they stepped in the door. These included playing “find it” with tossed treats, fast repetitions of sit and touch and asking the dog to go to her bed for a chew or to fetch a favorite toy.

Keep your dog busy. Many unwanted behaviors like mouthiness are a sign of an under-challenged dog. Use enrichment tools like food puzzles and focused games to channel mental and physical energy into acceptable outlets.

In some situations mouthing can be caused by other emotional situations like separation anxiety or a noise phobia. If you are concerned that your dog’s mouthing is more than just play and may relate to anxiety or aggression, seek help, starting with your veterinarian.

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Train Your Dog to "Drop It"

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