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

they may remain puppylike for several years. Dogs with a working or hunting heritage – Border Collies and German Short-haired Pointers, for two – were bred for sustained activity and will go stir crazy if they spend all day lying on the couch. Let me rephrase that: they won’t spend all day lying on the couch, and they will go stir crazy looking for something to do.

Fix No. 2: Mental Stimulation and Attention

Exercise is half the cure for boredom; mental stimulation is the other half. Many people notice that their puppy or dog’s shoe-stealing evil twin appears at more or less the same time every day. Scheduling a 5- or 10-minute session of reward-based training just before that often preempts the witching hour entirely. It also meets your dog’s need for attention – and attention is a need; dogs are social animals. Nobody enjoys a bored dog’s pestering, but it’s reasonable for our dogs to want some of our time, focus, and affection every day.

Food-Dispensing Toys

Also great for burning off mental steam: food-dispensing toys. Why should dinner take 4.5 seconds? Pack a mix of half canned, half dry food in a hollow rubber toy such as the Kong, freeze it overnight, and welcome your dog to the Slow Food movement. Extracting his food from its rubber prison will carry him right through that time of the evening when he would otherwise be checking out your kitchen counters and the dirty laundry. And remember the smells-like-food and chewy-texture motivators for object-nabbing? You’ve just taken care of those, too.  For more tips on how to keep your dog from counter surfing, check out my episode on food-stealing.

Prevention (AKA Cleaning Up After Yourself)

While you’re enriching your puppy or dog’s life, don’t overlook plain old management as a training tool. Shoes go in the closet. Dirty laundry goes in the laundry bag. Clean laundry gets put away. Tupperware containers bearing traces of last night’s pasta salad need not remain on the dining room table while you zone out in front of the TV. That inquisitive animal who lives with you evolved as a scavenger, and


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).