How to Get a Dog to Stop Pulling Clothes off the Line

Three Parts:Training Your DogProviding Negative ReinforcementIdentifying the Problem

There is nothing more annoying in the world then having hung up your clean and wet clothes on a clothesline only to come back and discover them on the ground and covered in mud and dirt. Not only can this be a pain and require more time to rewash and hang the clothes, your clothes may also be ruined. The only thing more frustrating than this is knowing that the responsible party is a loyal member of your own family – your dog. Fortunately, though, with a little time and some training, you can stop your family dog from stealing clothes off the clothesline.

Part 1
Training Your Dog

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    Practice obedience commands. The first step in trying to get your dog to stop taking clothes off the line is to be proactive about training. Make sure to go outside next to the clothesline with your friend and wait for his or her bad behavior. You can do this at a time that you are hanging up clothes, or just at another time that might be convenient.
    • If your dog lunges toward an article of clothing, tell him to “sit” or “stay” or “down.” Use whatever command you want.
    • Practice this over and over again. Use a treat to reward your dog when he or she sits after your command.
    • Don’t yell. You want your pup to stay calm and relaxed during this process.[1]
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    Have patience. This might take some time, so just make sure you’ve always got a pocket full of treats when you are around your clothesline with your dog. If your dog makes any movement that suggests he or she is about to take something off the line, tell him or her to “sit” and then provide a reward. [2]
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    Reinforce training in other scenarios. It is possible that your dog is also demonstrating this bad behavior inside under other situations. If your dog likes to steal your clothes inside, too, then this will provide an opportunity to reinforce your obedience training in another environment. The important thing here is to make sure your dog knows it is not acceptable behavior to chew or pick up clothes, shoes, or other objects.
    • Use your verbal commands inside of the house, too.
    • Never yell at your dog (out of anger) for stealing an item.
    • Don’t run after your dog if he or she steals an item like a sock. Wait for your dog to drop it. After your dog drops it, pick the item up and tell your friend “no!”[3]
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    Provide alternative entertainment. Part of the issue with your pooch pulling clothes off the line might be that he or she is bored. The best solution to this is to provide alternative entertainment for your buddy to engage in. This way, your buddy will have something fun (that is sanctioned) to engage in instead of ruining your clean clothes.
    • Buy some squeaker toys for your dog to play with.
    • Buy interactive games for your dog. There are a variety of interactive toys on the internet that you can buy. Many of these are treat-based and will keep your dog occupied with minimal attention from you.
    • Play with your dog on a regular basis. Playing with your dog, and providing a positive outlet for nervous or pent up energy will decrease the chances of your dog creating havoc in your backyard or elsewhere.[4]

Part 2
Providing Negative Reinforcement

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    Buy a spray bottle. If your efforts with positive training tactics have failed, and your buddy is still messing with your drying clothes, you can take a different approach and provide some negative reinforcement. The first step here will be to buy a spray bottle.
    • Only use negative reinforcement (and a spray bottle) once positive reinforcement training has failed.
    • Look for a spray bottle with multiple settings. You want one that can mist and shoot a single stream. Spray bottles used for fixing your hair will usually work.
    • Make sure your spray bottle has no residual chemicals in it. Wash it thoroughly.
    • Test the spray bottle. Test the spray bottle a few times on a plant or on your hand. You want to make sure that it’s not too hard and won’t hurt your friend.
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    Find a noisemaker. Noisemakers are another good way to provide negative reinforcement when your pup does something you don’t want him or her to do. Making a lot of noise – often times noises that provides displeasure – can and may discourage your dog from doing certain behaviors. Remember, though, your dog has sensitive hearing and you don’t want to make noises that could cause your pooch pain. Consider:
    • A whistle.
    • A can filled with pennies or beans.
    • A jar filled with screws.
    • Remember that using a noisemaker is different than yelling at your dog. Yelling conveys anger, whereas using a noisemaker is simply a way of modifying your dog's behavior in a deliberate and non-emotional way.[5][6]
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    Wait for your dog to act. After you’ve got your water bottle or noise maker, just sit back in a lawn chair, by the window, or somewhere else and wait for your dog to try to steal clothes off the line. This could be the frustrating part, and you’ve got to have a lot of patience. It might take your dog a good while to decide to cause some mischief!
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    Use your tool or spray bottle. When your dog starts tugging the clothes from the line, approach your dog shaking the can or spraying the bottle at him saying "NO! NO! NO!" This will ultimately help modify your dog's behavior as he or she will associate the action with getting sprayed or hearing the noise.
    • Never show anger when spraying your dog or shaking your noisemaker. Negative reinforcement is not about punishment or showing anger, but about behavior modification.
    • Be fierce or confident and show your dog that you're the boss. This usually helps the dog know that he or she has to listen to you.
    • Only spray your dog when he or she is very close to or at the clothesline.
    • Only spray your dog on the body. Avoid the head and eyes at all cost.
    • Don’t follow your dog as he or she runs away and continue to shake the can or spray the bottle.[7]
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    Continue this routine. Keep following up with this training routine. Eventually, after a few attempts, your dog will grow wary of this and will probably stop taking clothes off the line. Remember, though, patience and persistence is key to making sure your dog stops stealing clothes from the clothesline. If you need to repeat training, do so.

Part 3
Identifying the Problem

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    Eliminate other possibilities. Before you jump to conclusions and blame the family dog on the clothes being torn off the clothesline, make sure you actually identify the culprit and rule out other possibilities. The best way to do this is to spend some time actually watching the clothesline to see what is going on. If you don’t have the time to do this, consider a camera of some sort. Cameras can be purchased online relatively inexpensively these days. You might even be able to monitor the camera from your smartphone. Make sure to consider:
    • Small children.
    • Teenagers.
    • Cats.
    • Raccoons.[8]
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    Let your dog watch. The first step in stopping your dog from pulling clothes off of the line is to let your dog watch you hang the clothes. This way, your dog will see what you are doing and that you are hanging them up. The clothes hanging will no longer be a mystery after your friend watches you. This is also a good opportunity to spend quality time with your pooch.[9]
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    Monitor your dog. Make sure to watch your dog as you are hanging up the clothes and at other times when you are not hanging up clothes. As you are hanging up the clothes, your dog might be fascinated with what you are doing. If you’re not hanging up clothes, your dog might be investigating the newly hung up clothes. Make sure to monitor his or her behavior so you have an idea of exactly what is going on.
    • If hanging clothes, glance over periodically to see what your dog is doing.
    • If you’re not hanging clothes, watch your dog carefully from inside a window.
    • Observation is the best thing in order to gain more information about how to proceed. [10]


  • Make sure that you have a fenced area. After scaring your dog, he could run into the street and get killed if you don't have proper fencing.

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Categories: Dog Obedience