Q&A: Help! My dog’s a thief. How do I stop him?

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Q: My dog is a thief! LOL. Every opportunity he gets,
he takes things — the TV remote, a shoe, a sock, whatever! I think he
thinks it is a game of chase — though we have worked hard to stop
chasing him. He knows “stay,” “drop it” and “leave it” and will obey
those commands when we’re retrieving his plunder, but how do we get him
to stop stealing in the first place? — Tanya T.

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Andrea Arden, CPDT at Andrea Arden Dog Training in New York City, writes:
Dogs are opportunistic in that they will take every opportunity they can
to investigate things, eat things, etc. It can be frustrating when this
is directed at our valuables — and it can be dangerous for our dog.
So we need to redirect this normal energy and inclination to a positive
and safe outlet.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Start with
    him on leash at all times when you are there to supervise.
    That way, if
    he takes something, you can calmly step on the end of the leash to get a
    hold of him rather chasing him, which might inadvertently reward him (for some dogs, “catch me if you can” is better than a
    treat!).

  • Work on pet-proofing your home as best you can to keep super-enticing things out of your dog’s reach.
  • Consider getting rid of his food bowl and putting his
    meals in stuffable toys.
    This is a far better use of your dog’s
    meals than sitting in a bowl! Place the stuffed toys in a couple
    of different spots around the house so he has to hunt to find them. This
    is a great way to direct his desire to investigate and “hunt.”

Learn more about Petfinder’s Train FurKeeps program.

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