Why is my dog obsessed with dryer sheets?
July 30, 2008 6:29 AM   Subscribe

Why is my dog OBSESSED with dryer sheets?

I recently got a chihuahua and she is OBSESSED with dryer sheets. She will root through laundry to get them and then run off as if she has an incredible treat, hiding from us so we don't take the sheet back.

We thought at first that it was the smell of the clothes on the sheet, but we recently learned she goes ape-shit for unused ones as well.

We use Downy dryer sheets if that makes a difference.

Also, are these in any way harmful for a dog? We get them from her as fast as we can, but don't want her poisoned.
posted by arniec to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
As far as I know, dryer sheets are just wax and fragrance, so aside from some intestinal discomfort, it shouldn't be a huge deal.
posted by electroboy at 6:36 AM on July 30, 2008

My dachshund did the same thing! When he got one, he would go crazy and furiously roll around in it. I think he did it because he wanted to transfer the smell onto himself.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:52 AM on July 30, 2008

My mom's female lab does it - she'll sit in front of the dryer while it runs and then gets very excited when it buzzes - then steals them and eats them. My father will tell you that they don't break down in digestion, as he is the one who cleans the yard before mowing.

Mind you, a lab is a lot bigger than a chihuahua, so her discomfort might be greater.

It might be a form of pica. One of our cats goes similarly nuts for toilet paper.
posted by librarianamy at 8:13 AM on July 30, 2008

just wax and fragrance

as well as neurotoxins and carcinogens. I'd switch to an eco-, non-toxic brand -- then your dog can eat all she wants!
posted by salvia at 8:21 AM on July 30, 2008

I'd switch to an eco-, non-toxic brand

Maybe these?
posted by inigo2 at 9:17 AM on July 30, 2008

dryer sheets are just wax and fragrance

Many are animal tallow and fragrance, so that may be the attraction.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:25 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer

Benzyl acetate is found naturally in many flowers. It is the primary constituent of the essential oils from the flowers jasmine, ylang-ylang and tobira.

Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant

See above, similar stuff.

Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA's Hazardous Waste list

Ethyl acetate is present in wines. It may be considered a contaminant at too high concentrations, as typically occurs when wine is exposed to air for a prolonged period. When present at too high concentration in wine, it is regarded as an off-flavor.

Ethanol: On the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders

Oh noes, not ethanol! That stuff is dangerous!

There are alternative and safer methods, instead of purchasing these commercially sold fabric softeners and sheets. Purchasing natural fabric softener that uses natural base like soy, which can be bought at health food store.

Yeah, no estrogens or anything in soy.

Seriously, it goes on and on like this. Your eco non toxic nonsense is likely to contain the same stuff.
posted by electroboy at 9:33 AM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

My cat loves dryer sheets, too--she'll get one and spend an hour ripping it to tiny shreds. I have no idea what draws her to it--she doesn't really chew on it or anything, or try to eat or lick it. She just holds it in her mouth and tears at it with her claws. It was about a year into having her that someone saw this and said, "is that safe for her to be doing?" And I said, "uh. . .I don't know. But she's not dead yet?" (I really am usually a very conscientious pet owner.) So that's my anecdote.
posted by tyrantkitty at 9:41 AM on July 30, 2008

Dryer sheets often contain animals fats - so you're drying your clean clothes with animal fat. Gross! But it explains why animals love them so.
posted by agregoli at 10:06 AM on July 30, 2008

I've seen 3 or 4 anecdotal accounts of spayed female dogs being extremely interested in the soiled panties of their owners, to the point of chewing out the crotches of bloodied ones especially, and it seemed reasonable to attribute that to estrogen hunger induced by the removal of their ovaries.

Now from salvia's first link we have:

the use of dryer sheets can create xenoestrogens, a synthetic estrogen that builds up in fatty tissue and may affect the natural function of our hormone-producing glands.

A claim I hadn't heard before, and for which I haven't found authoritative confirmation, but it is certainly out there in a number of places.

I think that could explain the behavior of the dogs of this thread, and it certainly adds an interesting overtone to the obligatory shot in the dryer sheet commercial where the the beautiful young model buries her face in a freshly softened towel.

And I think it raises the possibility such compounds have been included in these products deliberately to make them more attractive to women.
posted by jamjam at 10:22 AM on July 30, 2008

Nthing animal tallow.
posted by for_serious at 10:41 AM on July 30, 2008

Could it be that the dog likes the sheets because they smell the way your clothes smell? Your clothes smell like the dryer sheets, therefore the dryer sheets smell like your clothes, therefore the dog is like OH BOY GOODY, OWNER CLOTHES TO LOVE AND SHRED! My dog would eat every pair of underwear I have if I didn't keep them out of her reach. What can I say, dogs are freaks. Good luck to you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:10 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

If the toxic dryer sheet talk is making you think twice, I found a great recipe for homemade static-releaser here in AskMe:

4oz sweet almond oil
12oz warm water (~80F)
1tsp Borax
1-3tsp essential oil to 'taste'/scent

Combine in mason jar or spray bottle, shake vigorously prior to each use. Mist (but do not soak) a clean rag and add to dryer with load.
posted by carsonb at 11:24 AM on July 30, 2008

jamjam said: "I've seen 3 or 4 anecdotal accounts of spayed female dogs being extremely interested in the soiled panties of their owners, to the point of chewing out the crotches of bloodied ones especially, and it seemed reasonable to attribute that to estrogen hunger induced by the removal of their ovaries."

"Estrogen hunger"? Are you for real?

Dogs sniff crotches, lick butt, eat cat poo out of the litter box, dig in garbage, pull tampons out of the trash... If it's some kind of "estrogen hunger" then it must be universal.
posted by loiseau at 1:22 PM on July 30, 2008

It could just be that she likes the feeling of ripping the sheets into shreds. We used to have a Cocker Spaniel that spent all his spare time stealing beer mats (the cardboard coasters that you out under a beer glass - my parents ran a hotel with a bar). He would then hide under a table and tear it into shreds. If he ever got into the bar when it was open, he would stare and whine at any customer with a glass of beer. They were convinced that he wanted the beer, whereas he just wanted the beer mat (fresh ones were just as attractive). We came to the conclusion that it was the visceral pleasure of tearing them into strips that he loved. Our cleaner was convinced that we had a weirdo visiting the bar, as she always found the strips of cardboard under the same table ... :-)
posted by Susurration at 1:46 PM on July 30, 2008

"Estrogen hunger"? Are you for real?

I'm sorry to have over-strained your imagination, loiseau.

Perhaps you'll find the phrase more evocative after you've reached menopause.
posted by jamjam at 3:02 PM on July 30, 2008

it seemed reasonable to attribute that to estrogen hunger induced by the removal of their ovaries.

No, no, no. It's the fluoride in the drinking water.
posted by electroboy at 3:15 PM on July 30, 2008

Best answer: One of my dogs goes mental over dryer sheets too (the other doesn't care). Do not let your dog eat or chew on them, the chemicals can't be good for the dog, and they are plenty large enough to cause a life-threatening obstruction in a small dog. Teach your dog a good "leave it" command (which should mean "forget what you have and come see me for something better"), and keep the dog and dryer sheets separate.
posted by biscotti at 4:00 PM on July 30, 2008

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