TRAINING CANINES TO PREVENT THEIVERY
Dogs can develop bad habits because of a lack of training or poor initial training. In some cases behavior that was permissible in a puppy is no longer acceptable when the dog is older. This is generally the case with thievery, which might have been fun as a puppy, now that he’s all grown up this behavior is suddenly unacceptable. But dogs that steal can make themselves sick. For example, chocolate candy contains a chemical called theobromine, large quantities of which are toxic to the nervous system. The dose of chocolate depends on the size of dog and the type of chocolate – baking chocolate has more theobromine than milk chocolate.
* Dogs can steal for a variety of reasons but in most cases they do it because it’s fun. When your dog steals your turkey off the kitchen counter or your underwear out of the laundry room, you chase him and he runs around the house and that’s fun.
* In rare cases dogs steal food because they are hungry. This may occur in a dog that previously had good manners and suddenly begins to steal. If the dog is thin he either needs more meals, better quality food or he might have worms. Take him to the vet to be sure no underlying health problems exist and check a stool sample to rule out worms.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
* Once you know the thieving is just bad behavior, then it’s time for a program of “behavioral modification” to eliminate the bad habit. The solution is to set up a situation that is not fun. Use a negative reinforcement to interrupt the behavior and cause an unpleasant result. In most cases, after a few experiences and regardless of the temptation, the item won’t look good anymore.
* For the negative reinforcement you can use anything that startles the dog sufficiently to interrupt the behavior and prevent the dog from immediately trying it again. For example, blow with a horn or use a shake can. You could toss a water balloon or a large key ring. You can also taint the item with hot pepper sauce or a mix of equal parts of alcohol, lemon juice, and vinegar. It won’t hurt your dog, it just tastes terrible. As an example: put a portion of fresh-cooked roast on the kitchen counter and taint it with hot pepper sauce. Wait for your dog to investigate – when he does he’ll be sorry.
* Avoid feeding your dog from the table. When you sit down to a meal, put the dog in another room until you’re done.
* Dogs – especially puppies – are curious and like to investigate. Be sure to put things away, well out of your pet’s reach. This is especially important at holiday time, when you need to be particularly careful not to leave temptations in areas accessible to your pet.