So you finally have your wonderful new puppy at home. She is a cute as she can possibly be . . . and she is stealing your stuff! The little cutie takes your shoes, pens, clothing, everything! She runs faster than you do, and she fits under the furniture much better than you do. HELP!
Take a deep breath, and reconsider your actions. When you see puppy with something that belongs to you, something you don’t want damaged, you run after her, perhaps yelling, “No! Drop it! Bad dog!” I have news for you. Your puppy is having a wonderful time! This is perhaps her favorite game. You may think you need to spend time with your children, or cook dinner, etc., but your puppy thinks you should play with her. What better way to get you up and running?
When you chase your puppy, and then take her cherished item (your shoe), you tell her how valuable the stolen item is. If you make a big deal out of it, you can create a life-long obsession for your dog. Instead of chasing, train your baby to give you her newly found treasures.
We have two training goals with this behavior. One, we want our stuff back, without the chasing! Two, we want the dog to willingly, eagerly give up her treasures. Luckily, the solution is simple – trade! When your darling, sweet, angelic puppy swipes your valuables, trade a treat for the item. Yes, the first time your baby will be too busy running to see that you have a treat. You might need to let her wear a leash that drags on the ground. When she tries to run, step on the leash. Offer the wonderfully tasty treat. Wait until she drops the item. If you reach for the stolen bounty, she might be more reluctant to let it go. Don’t reach, just wait. When she releases the item, give her the treat and remove the item. Do this very calmly.
Practice trading with your puppy’s toys. When you see puppy playing with a toy, quietly trade the toy for a yummy treat. When puppy finishes the treat, give the toy back to her.
Repeat this exercise often.
It is very important to teach the puppy to happily give up her treasures. While in some cases it is easy to take things away from your furry family member, we want her to willingly give up her valuables when she is grown. Adult dogs who have had things taken from them by force since puppyhood, often turn to biting to keep their possessions.
Certified Professional Dog Trainer