Why Puppies Steal Things, and How to Get Them to Stop

May 13, 2015

By Langley Cornwell

Puppies love to be the center of attention and will do anything they can to engage you in consistent interaction. Some of the things they do are charming and endearing, and other things can be downright exasperating. It’s a good thing they are so darn cute! And their breath…don’t get me started on puppy breath.

Why Puppies Steal Things

Oh, sorry, back to the subject at hand. So, why do puppies steal things? You guessed it: to get your attention. That, and to lure you into playing with them. Puppies are naturally naughty – in a playful way. They like to get something of yours and sneak it away when you aren’t looking in the hopes that you’ll chase them around and try to get it from them. This little game is big fun for a puppy.

How to Get Them to Stop

Hide Your Stuff

Breaking a pup from their stealing-game antics isn’t easy, but you can manage your way around it with a few creative solutions. The first thing to do is to find a place to put your stuff that’s out of reach of your puppy. When our female dog was young, she had a penchant for stealing shoes. Fortunately, she wasn’t destructive with them; she just liked to steal shoes and hide them.

Since she didn’t tear the shoes up this might not sound like a big deal, but it was. There were times when we were running behind schedule and I could not find a mate to any of my shoes. I had to search all over the house for a matching shoe. You can imagine how that excuse went over: “Sorry I’m late, but my dog hid my shoe.” We got to the point where all the shoes in our house were piled on the top of the dresser and the chest of drawers. We weren’t winning any home and garden tour awards, but our shoes matched. So make sure your puppy can’t reach the things she likes to steal.

Employ Distractions

Keep your puppy busy. That’s what she wants anyway. Figure out a few learning games that you can play together. Get a handful of CANIDAE PURE Chewy Training Treats and work on a few basic obedience skills like sit and down. Play with your puppy and make her tired. A tired pup is less likely to be mischievous.

Deter Your Pup

Another solution is to use deterrent techniques. Some people simply purchase a spray that tastes bad to dogs and spray it on items the puppy likes to steal. Another option is to use verbal deterrents. Surreptitiously watch your puppy, and when you catch her in the act of sneaking off with something, issue a firm “no.” That usually works. For extreme cases, some trainers recommend following up the “no” correction with a squirt from a spray bottle of water. I’ve never tried that but I’m sure it, at the very least, distracts the puppy from what she was doing.

Do Not Encourage Your Puppy

The minute you play into your pup’s little game, you’ve reinforced this behavior. If your puppy grabs a shoe and looks at you with an attitude of accomplishment, ignore her. Even if she bats her puppy dog eyes at you and gives that little “come chase me” yip, stand firm. Wait until she loses interest and drops the shoe, and then you can casually pick it up and put it on top of your dresser. Don’t look at her. Act like nothing is out of the ordinary.

Do Not Lose Your Sense of Humor

I firmly believe that animals have a sense of humor and so should we. Dogs are and always have been resourceful scroungers, and it will get you nowhere to be harsh or unforgiving about this behavior. Be careful not to extinguish your puppy’s sense of mischievous playfulness. Now is the time that you should work on strengthening the bond with your puppy and learning to appreciate (and deal with) her individual personality.

Puppies grow up so fast. Enjoy this time special time together and take lots of pictures. You’ll be glad you did!

Top photo by Adrian Scottow/Flickr
Bottom photo by Liz West/Flickr

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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