Why is my dog stealing things?

Posted by Betty. February 11th 2015.

Dogs don’t view property in the same way as we do and certain behaviours of theirs can lead to theft within your house.

Dog chewing shoeWhether it’s cold food you’ve left on the kitchen worktop or dining room table, shoes, clothing or keys – dogs are known for stealing things. But why do they do it? And how can you stop them?

Why do dogs steal?

Dogs may steal items for a number of reasons including boredom, breeding or instinct.

When a dog is bored it may try to attract your attention by stealing. Some breeds, especially those bred for hunting and retrieval, are more prone to stealing socks and other objects simply because it’s in their genes.

If you have a Labrador, Terrier or Retriever then you should train it with the aid of treats and other incentives. For example, if it brings you a toy then give it a treat but if it brings you a personal item then do not reward the behaviour. Turn your back and walk away to show the dog this is the wrong action without exhibiting any aggression.

Most breeds of dog respond well to training and you should start this process from the moment your pet is a puppy. Make sure that your dog always has a bowl of water to hand and eats at regular times too so that they get used to their routine quickly.

Getting plenty of daily exercise and enjoying outdoor and indoor play with toys can also help to prevent boredom and any associated stealing or destructive behaviour.

How can I stop my dog stealing?

As well as the tips above, you should make sure that your dog has plenty of toys whenever it is left in the home or garden to prevent boredom and stealing. You can even ask your butcher for a good solid bone so that your dog can gnaw this to its heart’s content, but it is worth remembering that some dogs may become possessive over this item so you’ll need to introduce and remove it carefully.

Some animals steal because they’re hungry so ask your vet for guidance on the amount and types of food to give. You can even get supplements to ensure their diet is well-rounded and complete.

If you work and leave your pet on its own for long periods of time then see if you can use the services of a dog walker in order to give your canine friend a good work out and a little companionship during the day.

A dog that spends most of its life on its own will be more likely to steal than an animal that is stimulated and happy. Dogs love games so play lots of games with balls as part of their exercise routine, either when out on walks or just in the garden at home.

What should I avoid when training my dog?

Most breeds of dog respond well to training and you should start this process from puppyhood.  Stopping canine theft is as much about training yourself as training your pet. Make sure that your food and other cupboards can be shut securely and try to keep your dog out of the kitchen and dining room.

If you feed your dog from the table, then it will associate your family’s eating area with treats for itself and will be more likely to help itself to anything left unattended.

When training your pet, remember that you should be firm but not aggressive. It’s perfectly all right to say “no” in a commanding voice but it’s never acceptable to hit your pet.

Never allow your pet to scavenge from bins or other waste receptacles either as if it eats a chicken carcass or any other forms of dangerous waste it could die.

If your pet steals on a regular basis, try to understand the reason why and look at your family’s behaviour as well as your pets. You may even want to consult an animal behaviourist who may be able to shed more light on the situation.

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