Get OUT of the TRASH!
Got a trash digger, or a counter surfer…or *gasp.. both?
I get a lot of complaints, dogs that steal anything and everything out of the trash can and dogs that steal anything and everything off of the counter. And, of course the dog that is an opportunist and does BOTH. But this could be a deadly problem if the wrong thing is consumed!
Actually, I have one of these naughty dogs!
In my dog’s defense he is 12 years old on prednisone and phenobarbital, both of which make him feel hungry ALL the time.
So What Can You Do?
If I have a young dog that steals either out of the trash or off of the counter first he needs to LEARN not to steal.
I know that sounds funny, he should KNOW not to steal things right?
If someone put your favorite treat out in front of your nose, and you were hungry would you take it?
Dove chocolates sitting out on the counter, or Cheetos (Cheetos always works for me) could you walk by and resist?
Probably YOU could resist because as a human you know that if you didn’t pay for it; it’s not really yours. You have powers of reasoning and ethics and have probably been taught manners by someone; mom or dad.
When you were 4 would you have walked right past your favorite treat without taking it? Probably not! Well, until one of your parents backhanded you!
But your parents probably hid the things that you would have stolen, or put them up too high for you to reach. And, when you started climbing up to steal things, they were there to educate you or punish you for bad behavior.
So why is it that we “expect” our dogs; who don’t have powers of reasoning to walk right past his favorite things?
Imagine for a Moment….
Your dog is blissfully walking through the kitchen when he smells one of his favorite things… chicken bones in the trash can. Remember that his nose is about 100,000 times more powerful than yours. This must be like walking past freshly baked cookies.
So there he is, with this temptation alone in the kitchen without any powers of reasoning or knowledge that taking this tempting treat is wrong. What do you think he is going to do?
Most likely he is going to take it. In his mind it’s not “stealing” because he doesn’t understand this concept, he is hungry so he is going to take what is available. If he didn’t do this in the wild he would starve to death!
Teach young dogs what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.
If you have a dog that is going to steal things while walking through the kitchen, he probably shouldn’t have the privilege of walking through the kitchen by himself!
I have a new puppy. I wouldn’t leave chicken bones on the counter or within his reach and then let him wander alone in the kitchen!
Like a good parent, I would put them up and away from his reach at first!
Then, I would teach him with him on a leash and the distraction controlled. Meaning that I walk my dog into the kitchen with him on a leash and the food distraction easily controlled; I would not use bones (because this could be scary if my dog was faster than me) and I would make sure the distraction is far enough away from me that my dog is not likely to win and grab the food.
If you have a dog that is a trash stealer and not a counter surfer, then put the food in the trash.
AND, set your dog up for a training experience.
When he goes to take the treat, TEACH him leave it! For more on that click here.
He should know the command “leave it” first and then you can set treats on the counter or in the trash and work on teaching him that what is left out is not necessarily his.
Understand that training will likely work while you are home or around, but is not necessarily full proof when you are not there to control the situation.
Again, I think if you leave steaks out on the counter to thaw (and your dog can reach them) and you leave him out while you run an errands your expectations of your dog are awfully high! If he leaves them alone, you are golden; but if he steals them and eats them all you are setting him and yourself up for failure and possibly a very expensive vet bill!
Going back to my older dog that is on steroids and anti-seizure medication, both of which make him feel like he is constantly dying of hunger; I can teach him to leave it (which he knows) as much as I want. But due to a medical problem he is really unable to say no in the face of food.
So, I lock the pantry and keep food off of the counters and the trash outside.
It is my job as a dog owner to keep him safe, and in order to do that I must either crate him (which I am not going to do at 12) or I make his environment safe for him.
It’s work! And, it is disturbing when he steals food, grabs the crock pot and breaks it, or sneaks into the pantry, but I love him and I know what his limitations are!
If in doubt treat your dog like a toddler and put up dangerous medications, foods and other things he might steal!
It was like Magic
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.