At some point while owning a dog, they are going to decide to either counter surf the kitchen, beg for food, steal garbage from the trash, or grab things from your hands and run away. This is playful for them and they really cannot help it.
You need to keep in mind that this type of behavior is very natural for your dog. They are born to be scavengers to survive in the wild. However, good news for you is that you are not going to sit back and accept that they are thieving from you! There are lots of different strategies that you can use to prevent your items from going missing and to fix your dogs thieving behavior.
We all know that your dog stealing food is very frustrating and annoying. What you may not know is that it can be a very dangerous habit for your dog to pick up. This is because they could be thieving something that is very poisonous or perhaps sharp. I have heard horror stories of a dog knocking over a pot of boiling noodles. This is never good and could leave a dog maimed for life or worse.
Why Do Dogs Steal Things?
If your dog is stealing food or items around your house, there could be many different reasons why they are doing this. This list might contain one of the reasons or triggers of why your dog is counter surfing around your house.
- Do you know what self rewarding behavior is? It is when you do something and the consequence of that thing is a desirable outcome. Stealing food is exactly this, self rewarding. If your dog is stealing food, they typically get to eat it. The bad news is that this behavior is self rewarding and that each time they get away with it, it is being reinforced when your dog steals something. It will almost always continue and get worse if not dealt with properly.
- There is always going to be the dog that likes to steal items or food just because they do not know any better. They have not been taught that this behavior is not what you want!
- If your dog is thieving, it could be because it is a symptom of canine separation anxiety. If they are missing their owner, dogs will typically steal things that have the owners scent on them such as shoes or socks.
- Dogs may use thieving tactics to get attention from you. As soon as they pick up a household item that you do not want them to, you will generally chase after them to release it. They consider this a game and again, is reinforcing the behavior.
- Do you leave chew toys around the house for the dog? If you do not, they may decide they want to chew on your sofa instead.
- Keep your dog fed or they are more likely to counter surf for some free food wherever they can find it.
- If you have not taught your dog the proper obedience training, this kind of behavior problem can surface. It is possible that the dog may not respect you or see himself as being the pack leader in your family. If this is the case, they will feel as they can do as they please which is not the way you should run things.
- Lack of exercise and boredom are often reasons for this thieving behavior problems.
- If you have a young puppy that has not learned household etiquette yet then you should not leave them alone with food or other chewable items that are likely to be harmful to them.
What Can Be Done To Stop Thieving?
There is really not a clear and cut answer to this question. You need to find out the reason that your dog has developed a stealing habit and then come up with a plan of attack to end it once and for all.
If you want to help stop counter surfing, here are some tips that may help you with your dogs stealing behavior. These are strategies that you can put into place right now!
- Keep all your food and other items that you do not want your dog getting at out of reach. Prevention is one of the best options when dog training. Clear all your garbage bins, clear the tops of your benches and tables. If you remove the motivation and then reinforce the behavior, this will will help get rid of the stealing habit your dog has.
- To correct a thieving dog, you need to make sure you have excellent supervision. This is the key! If you are around and can give the dog feedback to the behavior they are displaying, this will help train them. Positive and negative feedback is both good, just remain consistent.
- When you feed your dog, feed them only from their bowl or as a reward when you are training obedience. NEVER throw pieces of food to your dog from the dinner table or when you are preparing your meal. If you want your dog to behave, simply give them a Kong when you are making dinner. This should keep them happy.
- During the day, give your dog a lot of physical and mental attention. Take them for walks, play games with them, and administer some obedience training. This is all good to deal with the thieving behavior.
- Do not yell, hit, chase or give any attention to any dog that steals anything around the house. They want to get a response from you and this is exactly what you are NOT going to give them.
- If your dog is showing desirable behavior, reward them! If you are making dinner and your dog is siting quietly waiting, then give them a treat! This can actually be seen as an obedience training exercise so you can give them a reward when they deserve it. When you give them that treat, the behavior of them being patient and waiting is being reinforced and should continue. This is exactly what you want.
Stop Your Dog Thieving Problems Proven strategies
It really depends on what kind of thieving problem that your dog has, but you can check some of the methods below that may help you. Keep the points that I mentioned above in mind and then pick from these strategies to try and change their behavior. If you follow these, I am sure you will see results.
- The number 1 key factor when preventing behavior problems is obedience training. This includes thieving and counter surfing behavior as well. If you practice your obedience training then this will make the bond between you and your dog stronger and this builds respect between you both. One of the commands that I recommend be taught to your dog to help stop stealing is the leave it command.
- Another method that is helpful is setting up a booby trap for your dog. This is so that your dog can learn that if they steal, there is a bad consequence (no no, it will not be cruel!). This is particularly helpful if your dog likes to steal from a single place such as your dinner table. Here are some ways that you can give them a bad consequence for their behavior.
- Put some good tasting food on your table such as some meat. Put a cord on the meat and then tie some cans on the other end of the cord. If your dog decides they are going to counter surf for the meat, they will have to hear these cans crashing down around them which they will not like. If you are around, you will be able to take the meat away before they eat it and stop the bad behavior. A lot of dogs will simply drop the meat and run away because they hate the sound of these crashing cans.
- Another way you can do this is buy some bad tasting things for your pet store that is in town. Put this on something and wait for your dog to come up and try to take it. The idea behind this method is that the food will not be appetizing to your dog and they will not want to jump up to steal it!
- One of my favorite that I have seen work well is by using a water gun. This simply involves you watching your dog and giving them a negative consequence when they are thieving as soon as they make a bad move. If you see your dog going to the counter to grab some food, give them a shot of water fro your water gun and tell them NO! This will n ot hurt your dog and they will quickly learn that this behavior is not something they want to be doing because they get shot with a stream of water!
- Finally the last method involves another training command. You can use the go to your spot command which will change the dogs behiavor and make them do something else. If you make their spot a great place that they love to be in, this should work well. If you train them correctly, they will love their spot and start spending a lot of time there.