My Dog Has Turned into a Thief
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
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
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!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.