Dogs Who Steal Your Stuff

How to keep your puppy or dog from nabbing your stuff, and how to respond when it happens anyway.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
4-minute read
Episode #32

On many a day in many a household, the cry is raised: “Dogalini! What is that! No! Give it back right now!” Yes, it’s the Sneaky Thievin’ Thiefy Dog episode, otherwise known as the Perfectly Normal Dog episode, of The Dog Trainer’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Teaching and Caring for Your Pet.

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Object Nabbing – A Popular Pastime

I’d bet a lot of money that every pet dog with the power of locomotion has gotten in trouble at home for nabbing socks, shoes, plastic soda bottles, counter sponges, and other ordinary and not-so-ordinary household items. Today, why they do it, how to direct their time and energy someplace else, and what not to do unless you want to turn normal dog behavior into a serious problem.

Why Dogs “Steal” Objects

First, the why. One thing about dogs, you never have to look for deep dark motivations. They act like rascals because they’ve got unburned energy lying around. They’re a little bit bored and want some action. They’re a little bit lonely and want some attention. The item they nab smells like you. The item they nab smells like food. The item they nab has just the right chewy texture.

That list of whys, conveniently enough, turns right into a list of problem-solving tactics.

Fix No. 1: Exercise

If you’ve got an active young dog, be sure to provide a solid hour of aerobic exercise every day. The meaning of “young” varies from breed to breed and individual to individual. Though large dogs tend to have shorter life spans than small dogs,


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).