Why Does My Dog... Steal Objects?

Dog Stealing Shoe
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The sight of a puppy trotting off with a sock in her mouth might seem adorable, but if your dog is a chronic object stealer, it's not all that cute. Having Fido make off with the roast you cooked for Sunday dinner or your toddler's favorite toy can be stressful for you — and dangerous for your dog.

Certain breeds — including Golden Retrievers, Yorkshire Terriers and Papillons — are more likely than their canine peers to steal your things. But no matter what breed your pooch is, it is important that you put a stop to her thefts before she winds up at the vet's office with a tummy ache — or worse.

What Your Dog Wants

When your dog steals something, she wants to take possession of the object for any number of reasons. She may want to play with it, because she views the object as a toy. Clothing, shoes and children’s toys are favorite items for canine kleptomaniacs. These dogs may enjoy chewing the object, tearing it or just tossing it around. When a dog takes something that is not hers, she does not know she is stealing. She simply sees something she wants and goes for the object.

If your dog steals food, her motives are obvious. Even though she may be well fed, your dog may still have the urge to snack on people food. If she does, she will try to take anything you leave on the counter or table that smells good and is within her reach.

Some dogs steal because they long for your attention. They will take something just to prompt you to chase them. These dogs know what is important to you and they will grab the item just at the right time, so you see them do it. Their great hope is that you will follow in hot pursuit.

How to Respond

If your dog steals things to play with, it is best to provide her with her own objects to gnaw on. Until she gets into the habit of playing with her toys only, keep your laundry, shoes and children’s toys secure; store them somewhere she cannot reach. It is important that you keep your dog from swallowing objects that are not meant for eating. She may develop a blockage in the intestines that can require surgery.

If she steals food, be vigilant about keeping edibles out of reach. Do not leave food on kitchen counters or in easily opened cabinets. If your dog is a chronic food stealer, talk to your vet about possibly changing her diet to something she will find more satisfying. If it is the chase your dog is after, stop rewarding her stealing with what she perceives as a game. Instead, teach her to bring the object back to you by calling her and offering her a treat in exchange for the stolen item. Rather than steal your slippers, she may end up bringing them to you voluntarily in the end.

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