Doggy Thieves

Do you have a doggy bandit?  You know, the type – the one who loves to steal something that he’s not supposed to…  And, as soon as you try to get it from him, the game is on!  Oh yes, we can talk about “Drop it” or, “Leave It”, but how do we change the mindset of a dog that loves to steal things just so they can get you to chase them?

downloadI heard a trainer say once to a puppy owner – Well, just keep everything off of the floor. Yeah, right. I have three children, that is pretty much near impossible.  Plus, if there is NEVER anything for my dog to get into, what happens when there is accidentally something for him?

So, here’s the scenario – Your teenage puppy has realized that as soon as he has something he isn’t supposed to (and it’s usually something embarrassing, like your dirty laundry!), he runs off with it and it becomes a game of chase!  Here are some steps to take to ensure that you get that dirty sock back, safe and sound…

  1. If it is something that your dog can’t ingest, try to ignore him.  Those sneaky little mongrels love to grab things simply to get our attention (like how my 4-year old son loves to make noise the moment I answer the telephone!)…  So, if they learn that grabbing something inappropriate gets them nothing, well… That’s no fun anymore!  The moment they drop it on their own you calmly go pick it up and put it away.
  2. If they have something and you really-really can’t go a moment with them chewing it up, go into your kitchen (notice I said nothing about talking to your dog first).  Go into your kitchen and grab a handful of his treats. Simply by doing this you may spark your dog’s curiosity…  Grab a handful of treats and inspect the treats and talk out loud to your dog about how good the treats look and smell – “wow, look at these yummy treats! Wow, I am so excited to take a bite out of these yummmmmy treats!”…  Notice – anyone paying attention yet?
  3. Try calling your dog to come.  Again, letting him realize what yummy treats you have in your hand.  99% of the time by now you should have your little teenage friend in the kitchen with you, really wanting one of those yummy treats.

Dogs are like kids – They want that which they cannot have! So, if you go chasing after your dog trying to get the object, all you are doing is fueling your dogs desire to run away from you. Yes, most dogs love a good game of chase! They will grab a silly pebble on the sidewalk and if another dog is curious, the game is on! Don’t let them know that they have something of interest to you.  Let them know you have something of interest to them!


Some dogs would steal home plate if they could!

If you have one of those smarty pants dogs, you might have to take it a step further.  Sometimes, and I stress, sometimes, this will work… Imagine how a dog thinks of your body language.  If you are leaning towards them, they will think to lean away.  If you are leaning away, they will think to learn towards you (have I confused you yet?).  So, if you are walking towards your dog, and he has something he’s not supposed to, he is going to assume that you are walking to him to get his prized object.  What you want to do is walk up to him backwards.  Don’t talk to him, pretend like you don’t even see him at all.  Hold a treat in one of your hands, ready to give to him.  As you approach him backwards, crouch down and hold your hand out to treat him. As he reaches out to take the treat, grab the object!  Beware, if your dog is smart enough that you have to resort to this, you will probably only be able to use this “trick” once or twice, then he’ll be on to you!  This is how we catch loose dogs.  Go up to them slowly, with your back to them and your feet pointed the other way!!  Sneaky yes, but it works 🙂

The other option, if your dog is a real kleptomaniac, is to keep a lightweight leash on him during his free time in the house.  I will preface this by saying – don’t ever leave a leash on a dog unattended.  It is way too dangerous; they could easily get themselves wrapped up on something…  But – if you are home and your puppy loves to steal things and run away, yes. Try putting a 6’ lightweight leash on them and let it drag around the house.  This way, if they grab something and try to run away, you can at least catch them! Once you have caught them you can work on drop it.  Don’t worry; we have another handout for that!!

For all of the dear kleptomaniac owners…  I always like to try to think about how I can prevent a situation from happening again, and what my dog is trying to tell me. If my dog is continuing to steal things in order to be chased, maybe I should play with my dog more often? Take him into a secure, fenced in area and then chase him all he wants (then clearly let him know when the game is over and I’m not chasing anymore – and switch up the game to get him to chase me too!).  Throw the ball. Take him swimming or for a good hike.  Most dogs that are stealing things to get attention are simply bored.  Find a qualified dog daycare in your area (call us, we know the good ones from the bad ones!).  Call your doggy friends and set up play dates. Get some of those fantastic wooden dog puzzles and hide treats in them.  Take one of our “fun” classes like Tricks & Games, or Tracking.  Do things to enrich your dogs mind – That will tire him out just as much as a good run!

You may also want to read our articles on “Drop It”, “Leave it”, “Dog Daycares” and possibly “Possession Aggression”…

Got it? Now, go play with your dog, he’ll love it!


About Dog Face

Giene Keyes, CPDT – KA Owner & Founder of Dog Face, LLC & Shooting Star Portuguese Water Dogs Giene started working with dog behavior in 1990 when she adopted a 4-year old Greyhound from the racing track. To date he is the most severe separation anxiety case that she has seen. He taught Giene about the psyche and learning process of dogs. It wasn’t until Giene was training her little pot-bellied Labrador puppy in 1995 that she really became interested in the actual training process of canines. Starting her small training business in 1997 she developed her own methods and ideas of positive reinforcement. She took what she had learned from her Greyhound, as well as positive methods she used to train horses, to create what is now the base of our training methods in the classes we teach today. Giene is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist in Southern Wisconsin. After winning Best of Madison for two years in a row, Giene sold her Madison Dog Daycare to devote her time to dog behavior and helping owners create harmony with their pets in their homes. Specializing in aggression and difficult dog cases, Giene also works with rescue groups and shelters, evaluating dogs for adoption, developing Canine Aggression Management programs, and educating staff on dog language and behaviors. She has provided behavior consultations for service dog organizations, rescue groups and dog daycares throughout the Midwest. She is often contacted by police departments to work with individuals that have dangerous dogs. As a mother of 3 young children, Giene also realizes the importance of family dog training. She incorporates realistic training methods and helps to incorporate dogs into the family. She is an Instructor with the American Red Cross in Pet CPR and First Aid, a Certified Canine Good Citizen Evaluator with the American Kennel Club, and a Licensed Judge with the WI Dept of Ag, Trade & Consumer Protection. Giene routinely presents seminars on Dog Behavior, Training, and Operant Conditioning as well as educating her staff on dog body language and pack mentality. Giene is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Giene has been a regular guest on popular Madison radio shows and interviewed on numerous evening newscasts. Giene has also been featured in a number of local magazines, including the cover for Wisconsin Woman in 2010. Giene has also been highlighted in the Wisconsin State Journal for her work with Chicken Clicker Training, improving dog training skills along with timing and observation, and recently interviewed for a Nationwide Podcast. She enjoys holding training workshops across the state. If you would like to learn more about Giene, Dog Face and the services they offer, please go to the Dog Face web site at Please feel free to contact Giene of any member of the Dog Face Behavior Team anytime!
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One Response to Doggy Thieves

  1. ellyn says:

    thanks for the advice, Sterling has just started stealing things and is soooo proud

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