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Why Your Dog Steals Food From Your Kids & How To Prevent It

 by michelle on 20 Jun 2014 |
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Dogs are opportunistic scavengers that will never pass up the opportunity of a free meal! This is instinctual of course, but that doesn’t mean the behavior should be allowed. Some dogs steal right from the table, others from the garbage, but most problematic are the ones that steal from your small children. This can be a danger to both your child - who may get bit during the act of thievery - and your dog - who could be stealing something poisonous to them.


Children are small, with hands that can fall close to the height of your dog’s nose. This makes your child an easy target, but with prevention and training your dog can learn that it is not okay to steal!


Here are some things you should know when it comes to a thieving dog:


1. Your dog is less likely to steal if they are well fed. Double check with your veterinarian that you are feeding your dog the right amount for their age, size, and breed. You can also try dividing your dog’s daily amount into 2-3 portions that you can give them throughout the day. Another tip is to feed your dog before you’re having dinner company. Remember, dog’s are less likely to be on the prowl if they’re not hungry!


2. It’s essential that no one feeds the dog from the dinner table. By giving your dog people food, you could condition your dog to prefer it over their own. They may even believe that they are entitled to it. If you absolutely cannot resist, it’s recommended that you wait until everyone is done eating, and then put some scraps in their dog bowl.


3. Restrict your dog’s access to the kitchen. If you are prepping a large meal or having company, it may be best to remove the dog from the room by using baby gates or crating. Make sure you keep them entertained though. A good idea is to provide them with a food filled Kong toy while you are busy enjoying your own meal.


4. As humans it’s our job to teach our furbabies good manners and obedience training is the way to do so. In your dog’s mind, stealing food is a self-rewarding behavior. When your dog steals, the consequence is something desirable- they get to eat. Therefore, this thieving behavior is being rewarded and reinforced each time your dog steals something.


With obedience training, your dog will eventually understand that when they restrain themself from stealing, they are rewarded. Here are two different methods to consider:


Method 1: Have your child hold food in their hands and with your dog on a leash, walk towards them. If the dog tries to steal the food, gently tug the leash and say “leave it." If they don't try to steal the food then reward them with a treat.

Method 2: Hold a piece of food in your hand and show it to your dog. Say "leave it" and slowly lower your hand towards the ground. If they try to grab it from you, close your fist and deny them access to the snack. Ignore their nudging until they calm down, and then reopen your fist. If they sit and look calmly at the food in your hand, reward them.


Note that these techniques are not encouraged for dogs that are food aggressive. If you have a food aggressive dog you will need to consult specific training for possessive behaviors.


Be both firm and gentle when training your dog and always reward them for good behavior. Remember, you are competing against your dog’s natural instincts so be consistent with training, and your dog will have better manners in no time!



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