Dog Is Stealing Food
I am going to continue giving you some “Quick Tip” articles to help you with your puppy training.
See my first quick tip here.
Now...on to the latest quick tip...
Ahhh the proverbial counter surfer at work!!!
The majority of dogs will steal food, if given the opportunity.
Think About It
Dogs are scavengers, they are the ultimate opportunists.
They are also hard wired to constantly be hungry; this would also keep them alive in the wild. This is why so many dogs will eat and eat until they are obese.
The whole reason that we have domesticated dogs is that their ancestors followed our ancestor’s camp sights and forged a relationship.
If your dog was wild, and he did not take the opportunity to steal food, he would probably die.
It is important to understand that it is in his genetic code to survive.
He Wasn’t Born with Your Rules
So you should know, that your dog wasn’t born with your rules and ideals.
Actually, babies and toddlers aren’t either… they tend to take things that aren’t theirs!
The difference is that we take the time to teach our kids not to take things that aren’t theirs, but we expect our dog to be born with some kind of human moral code.
Isn’t that ironic?
I like to work on “Leave It” first.
Put him on a leash.
You certainly can’t teach a dog to stop stealing food; if you are allowing him to steal food.
Then, the game becomes who can get to it faster.
And, let me just tell you that my money is on your dog!
A leash gives you control!
Now put out something that your dog will want but won’t kill for… for example; I would use a piece of bread over a steak, in the beginning.
Put it on his level at first (so a stool, box, the floor).
I actually want him to try to take the food!
How else can we expect him to learn that, that is not what is acceptable.
So when he moves toward it and pulls on his collar and leash, I want you to command him to leave it.
If he immediately stops pulling toward the treat and looks up at you, you may reward him with a better treat or toy.
Remember the reward should be better than the distraction.
Eventually, you won’t have to use a reward, except occasionally for wonderful “leave its”, because you have conditioned him that the cue “Leave It” brings wonderful things.
If he continues pulling, just stand there and wait for him to give up.
Don’t give him another command.
Just stand there and wait for him to understand that no matter how hard he tries, he can’t get to it anyway.
Continue doing this with higher and higher value food over several days/weeks.
Then move the food higher to counters, and lower to the floor so that you can work on all levels.
Know that just changing the level of where you put the food may make your dog think that it is now fair game.
That doesn’t mean he is being belligerent. It just means that his thought process is different than yours!
Also train for other places like your kids’ game room, or the living room table. Teach him that the rules exist in all places.
Maintain the same protocol.
After several weeks of this training, he should understand that he can’t steal things off of your counters and the other areas you have trained.
One Last Thing
This won’t work for all dogs when they are alone.
My mom had an Akita that NEVER stole a piece of food, despite the fact that his face was counter level. I don’t know why, but he just never did. She certainly didn’t train him that way.
Most dogs are still opportunists, and if you are gone… so are the rules.
Sometimes it is best to put up extra food, garbage and the like when you leave.
Or, you can crate your dog when you leave the problem is alleviated!
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.