Dogs are sneaky and curious and the “look don’t touch” mentality does not naturally apply to them. Whether your dog is stealing food off of your plate, from the trash, or snatching your shoes from your closet, dogs can be thieves. Thieving can be both dangerous and expensive.
As many people know, chocolate is not good for dogs. Well, one day our beagle stole one of those giant Hershey Kisses off of the counter, and none of us saw her. After wondering where she was after 20 minutes had passed by without seeing her, we found her in one of our back bedrooms still working on the chocolate. We spent the entire night with her in the backyard throwing up and having diarrhea. We came very close to making an emergency trip to the vet that night.
We have established that dogs enjoy self-rewarding behavior, and thieving is included in this category. First, by stealing, your dog is obtaining the items that caught their interest. Second, they are getting attention from you when you realize that they took the item.
Dogs steal for many of the same reasons that they misbehave in other ways:
- lack of obedience training
- separation anxiety
- craving attention
- ack of dog’s own toys and chew items
- lack or exercise
- lack of entertainment
Prevention is the key to dog thieving, no matter what the cause may be:
- Keep food pushed back out of reach on the counters.
- Buy a child lock for your trashcan.
- Keep other doors in the house closed.
- Watch your dog and correct the behavior instantly each time he tries to steal
- Clear off benches and stairs
An important piece of information to remember is feeding your dog in the dog bowl only. If you are preparing your dog’s meal and you keep tossing him pieces from the counter, he will be tempted to try and put his paws up on the counter to get the food himself.
Try having another family member play fetch with your dog while preparing his meal, or give him a favorite chew toy. If he sits and chews his toy, or plays a good game of fetch and doesn’t beg while you are fixing the meal, reward him and let him know that he did a good job.
Here are some other useful tips on stopping your dog from snatching what doesn’t belong to him:
- Place a friendly trap for your dog. Find an item that your dog frequently likes to steal. Tie a string around the item and at the other end tie some empty cans with small rocks in them. When your dog attempts to grab his target item, the cans and rocks will come crashing to the floor and scare your dog. Because you have caught your dog in the act of stealing, make sure to discipline him by saying “ah ah” or “no no” and take away the item before your dog can dash off with it or eat it (if it is a food item).
- If food snatching is your dogs forte than place a piece of meat on the counter covered in Thum (a product sold at your local drugstore to help people stop thumb sucking and nail biting). It is safe and non-toxic but has a very biter taste to it. The taste is also long lasting, so your dog will really learn a lesson each time he gets that in his mouth. Your local pet store also sells a similar product made specifically for use with dogs.
- A technique that my mom used was the good old rolled up newspaper. No, this was not for beating the dog, but it was used for scaring. Every time our beagle would try to steal something off of the counter, my mom would take up the rolled up newspaper and hit her hand or the counter with it. Surprisingly so, it made a very loud noise and really startled our beagle, Mandy.
- If sounds are not enough to scare your dog then try a water gun. No, not the super soaker type, as we don’t want to turn your home into a water park, but a small handheld pistol. The instant your dog goes to nab an item that they aren’t supposed to have, squirt him with the water pistol and say “NO.” you want your dog to realize that you are constantly watching him and will not accept that type of behavior.
Remember that prevention is the key. If you were on a diet, would you leave doughnuts and cake on your counter all the time? No, because it is a temptation and requires more willpower when those items are in your sight. It is the same for your dog. It will take a lot of prevention and a little discipline to nip this habit in the bud.