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?
I 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…
- 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.
- 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?
- 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!
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!