There is nothing more annoying in the world than having hung clean, wet clothes on a clothesline only to come back and see them on the floor covered in mud and dirt. Not only can it be a hassle and cause you to need more time to rewash and re-hang the clothes, but the clothes can also get ruined. The only thing more frustrating than that is knowing that the culprit is a loyal member of your own family, the dog. Fortunately, however, with a little time and a little training, you can keep your pet from stealing clothes off the clothesline.
Train the dog
Practice obedience commands.
The first step in trying to get the dog to stop pulling clothes off the clothesline is to be proactive in training. Be sure to leave the house and wait near the clothesline for your pet to misbehave. You can do this at a time when you hang up the clothes or simply at another time that may be convenient.
If the dog lunges at a garment, say “sit”, “stay” or “down”. Use whichever command you prefer. Practice this over and over again. Use a treat to reward the dog if they sits after saying the command.
- Do not yell. You must get the dog to stay calm and relax during this process.
- Be patient. This job can take some time, so always make sure you have a pocket full of treats when you are near the clothesline with the dog. If the dog makes any movements that suggest he’s about to take something from the clothesline, tell him “sit” and then give him a treat.
Reinforce the training in other scenarios.
It is possible that the dog also demonstrates this misbehavior inside the house in other situations. If they also likes to steal clothes inside the house, then this will be a good opportunity to reinforce obedience training in another environment. The important thing here is to let the dog know that biting or taking clothing, shoes or other objects is not acceptable behavior.
- Use verbal commands inside the house as well.
- Never yell at the dog (out of anger) for stealing an object.
- Don’t run after the dog if he steals an item, such as a sock. Wait for it to let go. When he does, pick up the press and tell your pet “no!”.
Provide alternative training.
Part of the problem with the dog pulling clothes off the line may be that they are bored. If this is the case, the best solution is to provide alternative training to keep him entertained. This way, he’ll have something fun (and authorized) to do instead of ruining clean laundry.
- Buy some squeaky toys for the dog to play with.
- Buy interactive games for the dog. You can buy a variety of interactive toys on the Internet. Many of these will work with treats and keep the dog entertained with minimal attention from you.
- Play with the dog frequently. Playing with the dog and providing a positive outlet for nervous or pent-up energy will decrease the likelihood that it will wreak havoc in the backyard or elsewhere
Provide Negative Reinforcement
Buy a spray bottle.
If your efforts with positive training tactics have failed and your pet keeps messing up clothes that dry, you can take a different approach and provide some negative reinforcement. The first step will be to buy a spray bottle.
Only use negative reinforcement (and the spray bottle) if positive reinforcement training has failed.
- Look for a spray bottle with several settings. You should buy one that can spray and shoot a single stream. The spray bottles you use for grooming your hair will usually work.
- Make sure the spray bottle is free of chemical residue. Wash it well.
- Test the spray bottle. Test it a few times on a plant or on your hand. You want to make sure the spray is not too strong and that it won’t hurt your pet.
Wait for the dog to act.
Once you have the water bottle, sit on a lawn chair, by the window or elsewhere, and wait for the dog to try to steal the clothes off the clothesline. This can be the frustrating part, as you must be very patient. It may take a while for the dog to decide to get into mischief.
Use the spray bottle.
When the dog starts pulling clothes off the line, approach him by spraying the contents of the bottle and saying “NO! NO! NO! NO! This measure will help modify the dog’s behavior, as he will associate the action with being sprayed with water or hearing the noise.
Never show anger when spraying water on the dog. Negative reinforcement is not about punishing or showing anger, but about modifying the behavior.
- Be firm or confident, and show the dog that you are the boss. This usually serves to let the dog know that he should listen to you.
- Only spray the dog with water when he is too close to the clothesline.
- Only spray water on the body. Avoid the head and eyes at all costs.
- Do not chase the dog if it runs away. Instead, keep shaking the can or spraying water on him.
Continue with this routine.
Continue with this training routine. Eventually, after a few tries, the dog will become more careful and will probably stop stealing clothes off the clothesline. Remember, however, that patience and persistence are the key to getting him to stop. If you must repeat the training, do so.