I was in Marietta last Monday working with a new Home Dog Training client and his Alaskan Malamute named Juno.  June was eighteen months old and full of energy.  His biggest issue was not paying attention to my clients and not listening.  We worked through these issues by setting up behavioral rules for Juno; letting him know what my clients wanted him not to do.  He stopped jumping and running to the front door to “greet new people”. We also put him on a walking routine that allowed him to properly be out and about while still meeting the “be a good doggie” rules of my clients. As we started to wrap up the lesson, I asked my “I always ask question” of “What else haven’t you thought of that we need to cover?”.  This always elicits the “Colombo moment” from my clients of “Oh yes, one more thing”.

Your dog's stealing food may not be stealing at all

Just like always, there was one more thing.  My clients just remembered that Juno loved to steal food.  He would take it from the kitchen and family room.  Even when they thought he was full and just had eaten his dinner, he would “sneak in” and get something.  They then said that it was even more annoying because he did it when they had stepped away for a moment so they couldn’t see him do it.  They asked if there was a way to stop this from happening

I told them that the answer is “Yes”, but the problem is probably different than they expect.  To begin with, they have to understand why their dog thinks it is perfectly OK to get the food.  In their dog’s world, there is no such thing as “this belongs to me” when it comes to food and other goodies.  Juno will probably never try to grab it out of their hand or jump up on the counter to get it while they are working in the kitchen.  From Juno’s perspective, he sees my clients as his leader and if the leader still is in possession of the food, it is “hands off”.

But, when “the leader” leaves the room, they have given up the food.  From their dog’s perspective, it now belongs to no one and he has the option to claim it. Sometimes Juno may claim it and sometimes he may not claim it.  In his eyes, the option of taking the food is now totally up to him.

This behavior comes from his natural canine instincts of “wolves in the wild”.  The Alpha Leader will finish the kill and then eat all he desires. He will then walk away and leave what ever is left for the rest of the wolves.  This is a natural, engrained canine behavior and is very difficult to eliminate. 

Robin and I tell our clients to never leave their unattended food out when it is within their dog’s reach.  When they put it out of their dog’s reach, they are never surrendering it to their dog.  If their dog starts to go for the sandwich while they are on the couch or jumps for the chicken wings on the kitchen counter, they must correct.  They can not correct him when they are not present. They also can not correct him if they come back and see that he already ate the food.  That is too late.

I understand that this probably isn’t the answer you might expect. Sometimes we need to understand that our dog’s “perceived bad behavior” is our fault.  Because of that, we have to make adjustments in our actions.  

Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over sixteen years.  We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.