When you consider dogs started out as scavengers, it’s not surprising some dogs find it hard to resist sneaking a nibble from an unoccupied dinner plate or raiding a tray of appetizers left out for guests. So it’s only natural then that people would see a dog stealing food.
However, it is annoying, and it can also be hazardous to your dog’s health if they steal food that is poisonous to dogs. Fortunately, there are ways to teach your dog to keep their paws — and tongue — off the table. Let’s take a look.
Here are our top 3 tips to stop a dog stealing food.
1. Don’t Let Your Dog Learn a Bad Habit
From the first time your dog successfully steals food from the table, they probably won’t hesitate to try it again. To prevent easy access to food, put away all leftovers, keep breads and baked goods in bins and jars, and keep foods that need to be left on the table or countertop in Tupperware containers.
In addition, don’t feed your dog scraps from the table while you’re at the table. If you do, your dog may learn that it’s okay to take food from the table. If you wish to reward your dog with a bite of dog-friendly human food, take it to their bowl instead.
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2. Teach the “No” and “Off” Commands
The “no” command will come in handy if you catch your dog in the act of stealing. However, you shouldn’t use the “no” command or otherwise punish your dog if they’ve already eaten the stolen food; they won’t understand why you’re upset.
The “off” command is another useful command you can use if you have a small dog who jumps on tables or a large dog who counter surfs with their paws. Just remember never to “shoo” or push your dog off a table; they could get scared, fall, or injure themselves.
Pick your dog up and put them down or let them jump off if it’s safe to do so.
3. Teach Your Dog to “Lie Down” When Food is Around
When you want to teach your dog to stop stealing or begging, the “lie down” command can be a real lifesaver. When food comes out, give your dog the command, wait for them to lie down, and then offer a treat. Keep offering treats every 15-20 seconds or so, even as you eat.
After some practice, start spacing out the time between treats. In a matter of weeks your dog should learn that they are more likely to get a snack if they lie down nicely than if they poke their nose around and beg.
You can also integrate your dog’s bed or favorite blanket into this training. Ask them to lie down on their bed instead of the kitchen floor, then offer a treat.
Your dog will learn that being on their bed earns them a jackpot, and over time you should be able to move their bed to an out-of-the-way location while you’re eating dinner or entertaining. Just be sure to keep rewarding your dog for their good behavior.
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A Note About Deterrents
Some trainers recommend using deterrents such as tin can pyramids, booby traps, and cookie sheets that will make loud noises or scare your dog off when they attempt to steal food.
However, these methods can sometimes do more harm than good as they may set your dog up to become anxious in the kitchen or afraid of everyday items like cans.
If you find that your dog is stubborn and doesn’t respond to the other methods suggested above, talk to a trainer and see if deterrent training is a good technique for your particular dog.
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