Whenever you are near to your dog, he will try to nibble on your clothes and that makes you wonder if that is his way of expressing his love for you?
This is certainly not a normal behavior that you are expecting from him, and you may be wondering what’s happening to him and what can you do to make him stop this behavior.
When your dog nibbles your clothes, it could be your body or clothing scent that catches his attention, and he is doing his “investigation”. He is trying to get your attention, ease his teething pain, keep himself busy, calm his separation anxiety, or it’s simply just his natural scouting instinct.
It is important to understand the reason why your dog is exhibiting this behavior so that you can decide on the next course of action.
Your Body Scent Is Appealing To Him
Your dog could be nibbling on your clothing because your body scent or the scent of your clothes is appealing to him.
If you are just back from a workout, your body scent could be much stronger than usual and this would attract his attention.
He will start doing his investigation and find out what’s going on through nibbling at your clothing.
If he doesn’t get an “answer”, he’ll keep on nibbling at your clothes until he does. Do not scold him or yell at him for that.
Also, if you have been sweating a lot, your body scent will be very strong and this will also be very attractive to him.
I would suggest that you change to new clothing just before you head back home after a workout. This way, your body scent will not be that strong enough to attract his attention.
Besides your body scent, if you are using any kind of cologne or perfume, this will also incur his curiosity and make him do his “detective” job!
As you know, dogs have an amazing sense of smell and your dog will get very curious by all these conflicting scents, such as body, perfume and clothing scent.
Talking about clothing scent, do you like to use fabric softener in your laundry to make your clothes softer and more comfy to wear?
But, did you know that fabric softener has a very strong scent? In fact, it has a scent that is so strong, very similar to the scent of a woman’s perfume.
Now, this is going to be very interesting to your dog because this scent is so similar to a woman’s perfume, and it makes him very curious and interested.
It’s of no wonder why he keeps on nibbling at your clothing to find out where the source of all these different smells!
Attention Seeking Behavior
This is a common behavior exhibited by your dog when he wants to express his affection for you or seek your attention.
You see, when your dog finds something new and interesting, his natural instinct is to share this discovery with you.
As dogs are using their mouth for almost everything, it’s natural for your dog to nibble at you if he needs your attention.
And when he is feeling lonely and depressed, he will do anything to get your attention.
He may bark incessantly, whine or even nibble on your shirt, shoes, socks or keep following you.
Don’t Reward Him For His Nibbling
All these are his ways of seeking your attention. As soon as you notice this behavior from him, the first thing you should do is to ignore him. In other words, do not talk to him or look at him.
You certainly do not want to encourage his nibbling behavior by giving him the attention he is seeking for.
Even if it takes him a few minutes to realize that you are not paying attention to him, just wait till he stops nibbling. Do not give him any attention till then.
You will be rewarding him for his behavior if you ever give him that bit of attention when he is nibbling on you and trust me, he will take it as a sign of approval for his behavior and he will keep practicing that!
So only start your “action” when he has stopped nibbling.
Give him some gentle strokes on his chest and praise him for being a “good boy”. You will then work on addressing his needs (such as hunger, thirst or potty) and offering him a treat for being calm.
He will soon learn that he can get your attention without any nibbling and that will make him follow this tactic in the future. This is how you establish a pattern of good behavior.
There is another thing you must never do. You should never scold your dog or use an angry tone of voice when he is doing this nibbling.
In general, if you reward bad behavior with attention, your dog will quickly learn that bad behavior wins your attention, and he will not have to change his behavior in order to get it.
Pain Associated With Teething
Your dog is trying to ease his teeth pain through chewing and nibbling on things that he can get hold on.
Since you are just sitting beside him, you are going to be his ideal “target”!
It’s not uncommon for your four-legged friend to experience some discomfort as his adult teeth start to grow.
What you can do is to provide your dog with some safe chewing stuff such as chewable bones, bully sticks or KONG toys.
You should supervise your dog when he is playing with these toys. Make sure none of his toys have small parts that he may get swallowed.
And, of course, don’t leave your teething dog unattended. It’s very easy for a curious dog to put something in his mouth that he shouldn’t.
And that could be very serious! If you suspect your dog has swallowed anything, do NOT attempt to retrieve it yourself.
Contact your veterinarian immediately. Don’t try to induce vomiting or use any “tools” to try to get the object out.
Boredom Has Taken Over Your Dog
What would a dog do when he is feeling bored? The first thing he is likely going to do is to explore his environment.
A bored dog will walk around and sniff everything in sight. He might look under furniture, go into closets or inspect the walls.
And if you are around, you will be his first “target” to look for as he wants to play with him and ease his boredom.
What you would need to do is to provide an outlet for him to release his boredom. Give him some “tasks” that will keep him occupied.
You can give him a rubber bone to chew on, a small puzzle toy to play with, or even take him out for a walk around the neighborhood.
Playing some interactive physical games such as fetch, flirt pole or tug-of-war with your pet will help to keep him mentally and physically exhausted.
This will certainly help to release his pent-up energy and keep him less energetic.
There is a saying that “A Tired Dog Is A Good Dog” and it is absolutely true.
A dog who is tired is more likely to behave himself.
And lastly, you can make him run some “errands” for you, like fetching your newspaper, bringing soiled clothes for laundry or other little tasks that keep him occupied within the house.
Anxiety Caused By Separation
If you observe that this nibbling behavior happens whenever your dog sees you back from work, this is a sign that he misses you and is stressed that you are away from him.
This is one of the symptoms of separation anxiety and other signs of anxiety include urinating and defecating everywhere in your home when you are not around, chewing and destroying furniture, digging in your yard as an attempt to escape, trembling and excessive salivation.
To help him overcome his stress and anxiety, give him your full love and attention when you are at home and start him on crate training.
The goal of the training is to make your dog see the crate as his den (a personal, secure and safe place) where he can stay whenever he feels stressed or anxious.
Start by feeding him in the crate and placing some of his favorite toys in it.
This will make him associate crates with rewarding experience and teach him that the crate is now “his place” to go whenever he feels uneasy being alone.
Natural Instinct – Genetics
Hunting dog breeds such as Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Irish Setter and Beagle have that “natural instinct” to do their search, hunt, chasing and scouting jobs.
These breeds have a genetic predisposition to be more interested in these types of activities than others.
So, if your dog belongs to these breeds, he tends to be more curious about his surroundings and any new scents from your clothing or body will catch his attention.
And since he has been “genetically programmed” to be more interested in performing investigation tasks, he will start to use his taste (through nibbling) to uncover his findings.
So what you can do is to keep the scent as mild as possible, such as changing to a new shirt if you sweat a lot or giving him a KONG toy to play with to distract his attention from you.