My puppy is a thief!

I am answering a Frequently Barked Question: How do I stop my puppy from stealing things?

I have been told about puppies running away with items of clothing when their bipeds are getting dressed, puppies running off with the remote control when their bipeds want to watch television, puppies unpacking the children’s school bags and puppies taking and chewing shoes – to name but a few things these rascals are getting up to.

Puppies just want to have fun! The idea of ownership is a very human view of things. Your puppy is inviting you to play. If you’ve ever chased after your puppy to get something back then you’ve inadvertently accepted the invitation and rewarded the behaviour. Playing at keeping an item from bipeds is a lot of fun! I love to play this game in the garden where there’s plenty of room to run around, but I only do this with one of my toys when my bipeds have agreed to play. I will explain why I stopped trying to take things from my bipeds.

Pyrenean Mountain Dog, or Great Pyrenees, puppy with Tibetan Terrier puppy

Puppies just want to have fun!

My bipeds tried to avoid situations where I could take something and they also did training with me so that I would learn not to take things. My bipeds were very tidy when I was young, they put everything, even all their shoes, into cupboards so that I couldn’t often get hold of anything I shouldn’t – I can tell you now that being tidy doesn’t come naturally to them! They also only allowed me in certain rooms – the ones where they weren’t leaving anything interesting for me to get at!

My bipeds ensured that I had plenty of playtime at fairly regular intervals and I had short training sessions. One of the things they taught me was “give it”, which meant that I should exchange whatever I had for something that they were holding to give me. Sometimes I had to think hard about whether I wanted to swap, but they were always offering me something more interesting.

They also taught me “leave it”. They began this by putting a fairly boring treat on the floor and when I went to take it they covered it with a hand. I didn’t try very hard to get it and when I stopped trying I was rewarded with a very tasty treat. When I knew the request to “leave it” they gradually did this with more interesting things, but the reward was always nicer than whatever I was being asked not to touch.

Cartoon of dog raiding rubbish, drinking from toilet etc.

A few examples showing when “leave it” could be useful!
Attribution: By LELE43 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

They also worked with me on sitting when asked. This seemed an easy way to earn a tasty treat, lots of praise, or some playtime with them. We did this so often that “sit” is almost automatic and they use this to their advantage!

With these three requests at their disposal, it was impossible for me to run off with something and have a game. If they saw me about to pick something up they would say, “leave it”. I would get a treat and then be encouraged to play with one of my own toys. If I managed to pick something up before they noticed, they would ask me to “sit”, and then they would approach me and ask me to “give it”. Again, I would be given a treat and encouraged to play with one of my own toys.

I noticed that if I was settled down playing with one of my own toys, they would often give me a treat as they walked past. They would also tell me how pleased they were with me and sometimes they would join in the game with my toy! I gradually gave up trying to get them to play with things like the remote control, as they never joined in. It was more rewarding to play with one of my own toys and if they chose to join in that made it even better!

See you next Wednesday!

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75 thoughts on “My puppy is a thief!

  1. Hi Clowie… It’ s been a while !.. I hope you are doing well !…
    Great post as usual.
    Best wishes, Aquileana :)

  2. Great tips – thanks Clowie! One of these days, can you tell us if your bipeds are just naturals at dog training or if there are some good training training reference books to learn from? Thank you.

    • Thank you. My bipeds say that they are not naturals, they learnt a lot from me! They have taken advice from trainers and people with lots of experience of my breed. One of them has read loads of books, but the favourite one is “The Perfect Puppy” by Gwen Bailey – the emphasis is on teaching the puppy the desired behaviour before undesired behaviour surfaces. For example, knowing that I was going to be large, I was encouraged to keep all four paws on the ground as a small puppy and taught to sit to greet people. I can count on one paw the number of times I jumped up someone in excitement – and I only needed reminding to sit.

  3. Great tips Clowie. The hoomans say whee steal stuff too but whee prefer to call it borrowing-without-the-intention-to-return . . .

    Have a great Wednesday

    Nacho, Noah, Buddy & Basil
    xxxx

  4. Super tips Clowie. We’ve been very lucky with our two as they seem uninteresting in anything that isn’t edible. That said, they are rather partial to cat toys and they don’t do well once in a dog’s slobbery mouth ;-)

  5. Your bipeds are very wise!!

  6. Clowie I know it took you a while to do it but I’d say you have your bipeds VERY well trained…..you’ve got them eating out of the palm of your paw!!! Love the cartoon (hahahahaha).

    Hugs, Sammy

    • Thank you, Sammy. I know you’ve done well at training yours and know how much time it takes – but it is worth the effort! The cartoon made me laugh!

  7. Clowie, Thank you for a very valuable lesson. The female biped had been training the male biped in much the same manner only the treats are different. It has worked well for them for a million years. I am just saying I have learned a lot, going to that same class. But I am glad to see your perspective on t he subject, and that it has been affective on you. Take care, Biped Bill

  8. Very good tips, C. Mom taught me early on about the word, “Leave it.” It makes things fall out of my mouth because I know a yummy treat is coming.

    Love and licks,
    Cupcake

  9. Clowie: We taught our big puppy (now 125 lbs) to “trade” which has worked very well. He willingly trades the object for a treat, another toy, a box (great enrichment), or sometimes even a hug! Our best thing we taught has to be “smell”…he would pick flowers and give them to us but the neighbors were getting a bit upset so we taught him to “smell”. He actually puts his nose on the flower and makes a big sniffing noise now and then smiles at us! It is adorable!! (And the neighbors have thanked us!)

    • That sounds delightful – I’d love to see him doing that! I was rather partial to a spot of gardening as a pup, but my bipeds didn’t really appreciate me moving the plants. I didn’t know that the plants die if you pull their roots out of the ground!

  10. You are a very good girl Clowie and would make it easy and enjoyable for some of us who aren’t around big dogs to know big dogs aren’t always scary.. :) We have friends that have a big dog, not as big as you, but their dog jumps up on us and in the summer with bare legs it isn’t much fun!

    • Thank you. I don’t mind my bipeds making a fuss of other dogs, but I don’t really like it when dogs jump up them – I keep a close eye on things in case my bipeds need my help.

  11. Hi Clowie! My bipeds have totally puppy-proofed the house, but my male biped isn’t as neat, so sometimes I grab his shoe. We have great fun, but he makes me ‘drop it’, and I get a treat too! My mom had to have him change the door-knob on the back door, because I learned how to open it and let myself outside. I can open puppy gates and lift the potty-lid too. My bipeds tell me how smart I am :)

    • Yes, you are clever! We had a temporary arrangement of cords and hooks to stop me from opening some doors. When they tried a puppy gate, I didn’t bother to open it – I just forced my way through! I still say that the door frame must have been quite weak for part of it to break off!

  12. Sweet Clowie your blog is very informative. Your tips and sharing of how you were trained is great. Awarding good and accepted behavior is a good thing. Chancy responds very well to pats or treats when he behaves well and your blog has helped us with some things. Hugs and nose kisses

  13. Good Words #1 Clowie. It took me a little while to learn which old shoes were mine to play with and which were still being used by my biped. Now if I find one within reach I carry it off sometimes but never chew on it. She just has to hunt for it. I don’t get any treats for that but have highlighted for her the parts of this email where you mentioned treats. Me and my two little (7lb and 13) compared to my almost 80 get our treats morning and evening for the most part. I’m going to suggest more though. Btw, I’m may have to find a new home if my bipeds need to go to a retirement center–they haven’t told me yet for sure but I over heard it on the phone So ask all your quadroped to pray it will be a good place. Have a good day and have another treat on me. Mack

    • I think that highlighting the parts about treats was a good move! Time spent training our bipeds is always worthwhile.
      It will be sad for all of you if you need a new home. My thoughts will be with you.

  14. Bark bark, Clowie. We know “LEAVE IT!” and those rooms that we’re not allowed in. Took us close to two years (turning red: mostly me, Bella) to stop taking things that I shouldn’t even though our bipeds put them out of reach. I, me Bella, have really long legs and surprised the you know what out of my bipeds when they caught me on top the kitchen counter. Now there are kiddie barrier all around it and other places so I don’t jump up and… It’s so true, we just want to have fun. We think humans could learn to do more of that, BOL. wag wag, Max, Bella, & Lady Luck (who’s playing more each day in tiny splurts <3 )

  15. the staff tried that “treat for prey” exchange too… sadly that was the trigger for me to steal more to get more treats :o) btw: the graphics shows exactly why my mom dislikes to give me a kiss :o)

  16. Your humans are very smart :)

  17. It's Dog or Nothing

    Puppy proofing is a must! Many items have been spared from putting things away and the “leave it” command ;)

  18. Leave it has always woked wonders for me when it comes to these sort of things. I do little reminder lessons with it daily as well, to keep the “leave it” fresh in their minds.
    Happy Wednesday! :)
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  19. Good advice. Leave it, is probably the command my sister Bailie hears most and she is pretty good at it. She doesn’t steal from others, she likes to eat everything she finds.

    • Thank you. Leave it is very useful when you have an inquisitive puppy in the house. Bailie is lucky to have you and Katie as role models.

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