Stealing by Dogs

Thefts can happen all the time in your home. The turkey, warm from the over, one of your new leather shoes, your wallet or the bones from the trash were all there a minute ago, but now they’re not. A clever canine thief waits until you’re not looking, then jumps for the counter or dives into the trash to nab the treasure, running off with it as fast as he can.

If you catch your dog in the act, your instant reaction might be to yell at him to stop his antics. But the louder you yell, the faster he runs, and stealing quickly turns into a game he plays to get your attention.

When it comes to food, many dogs can’t resist an unattended dinner plate. But when he gobbles the whole thing down in one go, it isn’t to attract your attention – he just wants a free meal.

Thwarting the Thief:
The best time to correct your dog stealing food or objects is right at the moment he tries to take them, says training consultant Jill Yorey. And the most effective way to do this is to booby-trap objects so they make a loud, frightening noise as he tries to steal them. Use a long piece of dental floss and tie or tape one end of it to a small piece of meat. Attach the other end to a soda can with a few pebbles inside. Place the meat on the edge of your kitchen counter and leave the room. When your dog goes in for the grab, he’ll get the shake can as an unexpected surprise, and it won’t take long for him to come running out of the kitchen without his treat. (If your dog wises up to the sight of the shake can, you can cover it with kitchen cloth).

This same method can be used on anything your dog loves to swipe. You can swap the shake can with a noisy batch of keys and tie them to important papers left on the desk, shoes in the closet or anything else that takes your dog’s fancy. Sprinkling Tabasco sauce, pepper flakes or bitter apple on objects of your dog’s desire is another way to deter him from stealing. But be warned – many dogs don’t mind the extra flavor, says Myers.

If you have a particular area in the house you want to protect from your dog’s pilfering paws, such as the den or kitchen, check out the foolproof gates made for toddlers, or ask your vet or other pet owners for advice. They may be able to give you some amusing suggestions. With your persistence and patience, your thieving dog will eventually come to the conclusion that crime doesn’t pay.