My Dog Has Turned into a Thief

Thanks to geographic collections for the photo

Thanks to geographic collections for the photo

My great dog has turned into a thief, a very skilled one in fact.

She has countless titles and we even got a great trophy a few weeks ago, but food thievery has begun to rear its ugly head in my house lately!

Don’t get me wrong, she respects me enough not to counter surf or stick her head in the trash when I am home, but when I leave all bets are off!

The Good ‘Ole Days

When she was a puppy, I swear it was like pulling teeth just to get her to eat!

She would wander around her food bowl and knock it with her cute little paws and send her puppy kibble skating across the room.

And, at the time I had two older dogs who were more than happy to help her clean it up!

We use to joke that she couldn’t eat a meal unless it was spilled on the ground.

I think she had puppy ADD back then when it came to eating.

It used to be that I could leave a sandwich out on the table or in front of her in the car and she wouldn’t steal it.

Things Have Changed

My Dog Loves Bread Too!

My Dog Loves Bread Too!

It started last year when the kids were here for the summer, she got  A LOT of food sneaked to her under the table, vegetables, beans, etc.

When they left, she had to go on diet number 1!

Diets are hard on all of us.  And, as dogs age, they, like humans are more likely to have their metabolisms slow down and gain more weight on the same amount of food.  They are also less active than puppies.

Survival of the fittest and dog genetics means dogs are always hungry.

In the wild, a dog never knows when his next meal may be so he gorges himself if he can, even if he is not hungry.

A diet adds a little fuel to that fire; they go from feeling satiated most of the time to being a little bit more hungry (by diet I just cut back her regular food by ¼ she was still eating twice a day! By no means is she starving).

Let’s Understand it From Her Standpoint

She feels hungry, even though she is not starving in some ways she thinks she is.

She was use to a certain amount of food, then the kids started spoiling her and giving her people food and then she had to be cut back a bit to get back on track.

Stealing food in this case is almost instinctual.

She knows not to do it when I am home, but when I leave and she is bored she smells the bread on the counter and the “great unused” food in the trash and thinks there is no harm in helping herself!

She got use to jumping on the kitchen table and knocking off apples from the top of our pantry and helping herself to as many apples as she wanted (this dog loves fruit).

What Can I Do?

I can crate her when I leave.  She doesn’t have the problem when I am home so there is no need to change the structure I have for her around the house.  I can crate her when I go to keep her from getting into my trash and food.

I can also put the trash and food up when I go anywhere.  I make note to put the trash outside and make sure the pantry door is shut.  And, chances are once I have done this for several weeks, her bad habit will go away!

I can set her up for training.  I can leave some food out on the counter or the table and “pretend” to leave taking my keys and leaving out the front door and wait for her to make a mistake.  I know she jumps on the table (I caught her one day when I had forgotten something) and gets on top of the pantry.  So I would open the window by the table (so she could hear me) and then go back behind the house and wait for her to go and jump on the table so that I could tell her to “leave it” when she makes a mistake.

This way you are teaching them that even though they think you have left, you might not have and you might be waiting for a training opportunity.  This will take several sessions to teach your dog not to take things or steal when he thinks you have left.

All of these and combinations of all of them are good options to get things back in stride.

I like setting her up for training so she knows it is not acceptable, but I also like making sure she can’t reward herself by putting up the temptation and letting her know it’s not an option anymore.

Let’s Talk About that Diet

My Fury on the Table Trying to Steal Apples...

My Fury on the Table Trying to Steal Apples...

Everyone hates the diet word.  And many of you are probably feeling bad for her right now that she is on a diet.

Me too!  I am on a diet as well, and I feel bad for myself sometimes too.  But I have a bad knee and the more I weigh the more pain I am in and the harder it is to do normal things around the house.

Dogs are the same.  They want to eat and gorge themselves and they eat out of boredom sometimes too and it is important that if we want a healthy dog we keep them at a safe weight.

Being overweight can take years off of your dog’s life!  For more on that and the other 7 Deadly Sins of Dog Ownership click here.

Add to that the fact that my dogs are athletes (they do competition agility, and protection sports) and a few extra pounds could make a HUGE difference in her risk of injury.

Extra weight can blow her knee (ACL surgery) or could hurt her back or neck and cause her to have arthritis earlier in life.

So I take her weight very seriously and try to keep her safe and healthy so she can run and lead an active life with me!

Keeping your dog safe and happy is up to us!  I just wish someone would measure out my food for the day!

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  1. Barbara P. Turner in Chesterfield, VA says:

    My girl Josey, that I just recently had to put down this past April 26th 2013 of severe kidney failure was notorious for stealing my food. I had gone to Subway one day about 2 years go, got my freebie sandwich from my points, brought it home, put it and my cookie on a platter dish, put the plate on the hassock stool in the den and quickly went to the potty and when I came back into the room here she was had helped herself to my free sandwich and cookie and it was all over the floor! LOLOLOLOL! I just stood there and laughed! That was just once. Then one day about 6 mos. after that I had left part of a sandwich on the counter, thought it would be safe and doggone if she didn’t reach up and snatch that! JOSEY! But I miss her something terrible! She was my shadow, indoors and out!


  2. dee says:

    My chocolate lab was rescued as a stray can open doors and cabinets but has yet to master the refrigerator thankfully. She is always on a diet to make up for her thiefing ways!


  3. Venetia says:

    I couldn’t help but laugh as I read your article. I live moments like this all the time. I have a shi tzu/daschund mix named Pedro Frank, he looks like a black shi tzu, with a longer face. Anyhow, if I am sitting on the couch to eat and watch TV, he will non chalantly jump up on the back of the couch and lay down, but before you even realize what he has done he is sitting in your lap and looking at you and “going where’s my bite.” Now if it happens to be a sandwich and you move your arm backwards to say “Not happening now get down” which he does my MinPin (Punky) who has quietly been waiting in the shadows reaches around (Remember I move my hand with the food) grabs the sandwich and runs. Needless to say, they enjoy a sandwich together and I have to make a new one. I also, have a bloodhound, I adopted him from a rescue, brought him home, cleaned him up, and he manners. wouldn’t even go near the cabinets in the kitchen. Well….since he has been a house dog now for over a year, he has beome way to comfortable, I caught him with his paws on the counter and getting a loaf of bread….anyways, at my house there is never a dull moment between teenagers, dogs, and cats.


  4. Mary Beth says:

    Do the two above writers intend to just live with the behavior? I need to change it but I don’t ALWAYS remember to put it out of reach. Mine used to pull open the kitchen drawers so he could climb up and “surf the counter” for food. Even took a steak off the stove top once. Hasn’t done that lately thank heaven.


  5. Diane Reid says:

    My boy thinks my food is his and just gives me that feel sorry for me look which is hard to ignore especially since he was abused with his former owner. I eat at a tray watching TV and if I need to go to the potty, he will jump on chair and eat everything. He also thinks the trash is his private party food.


  6. Annette says:

    My Boerboel was never taught not to steal but never took food off even an coffee table. When he craved something he would just sit staring at it and if I fail to give it he would lay down waiting for my esponse… can my Scotty be taught to do the same?


  7. Pat Rosell says:

    My boy, Finian (2 and a half year old Yellow Lab mix, does not steal food, but he does like to “steal” objects from the dining room table (pens,mostly, but sometimes even my cell phone). How can I keep him from doing this
    so I can un-crate him? Please help! Thanks!


    jane Reply:

    i try to be strict with my pitcross and i have always made him sit and wait for his food but now and again he will do something unexpected and naughty and although i know its bad, i have to stop myself from laughing at him still ‘having a go’. i know people will say, what if he snatches food off a child, but the thing is, if there is a child around with food, i have a tight grip on his leash, he is never off it so he will never be put in that position. i like my dog to have a personality and to make attempts to go with his instincts, i dont want a dog that just bows down to me and never tries to be himself, i just have to be responsible and watch out for when its inappropriate


  8. Amy says:

    This is totally unrelated but I am having a major issue with my golden jumping on people. I have tried all the training I know and I still can’t get her to stop. Please help!!!! I don’t know how to train her to quit this jumping.


    Margie Davis Reply:

    Amy – have you tried not reacting as you step INTO and towards him? Most of the training tips basically are giving the dog some kind of reaction. When dogs don’t want a pup (or any aged dog) jumping on them, they use their bodies to block the jump. As far as they’re concerned, point made. You might have to do it several times, especially if your dog is used to getting a reaction, but I’ve had good luck with this technique. Hope it works for you. Wen she doesn’t jump, immediately give her a distraction, praise or a treat. Eventually, you should be able to take this jumping behavior out of her. Good luck!


  9. Margie Davis says:

    Just adopted a year old Boxer mix who I named Butters. After a week I have no doubt he’s going to be one of my best dogs – sharp, keen, great heart, funny, eager. He had already been scheduled to be put down because he was “becoming vicious & is untrainable.” The truth is he was bored & confused. Had a chance to speak with the owner who gave him to the rescue society. She claimed that he had lunged at her youngest child. What had she done to teach him that was unacceptable? “I got rid of him, that’s what I did.” (Wow, this lady grades hard!). Also, she said, “he’s a thief and I can’t have that.” What did he steal? Food, especially butter. “He kept eating it off the table even though I told him not to.” Wow, he sure deserves to die for that. At least she enjoyed the irony of his new name. He is being child-proofed, exercised a lot, worked a lot – he’s great with my other dogs & sleeps with the cat Lulu. Vicious, right. We practice not stealing & he can now sit next to a stick of butter without even glancing at it. Makes me wonder how many healthy young bored dogs are put down in this country because people don’t know how to integrate them successfully into their pack or how to bring out balanced behavior.


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