Every dog parent has experienced that chill at some point, when we see our dog stealing food right off the table. It’s like we just turned our back for one second and now that prized steak is gone. It doesn’t help that the thief is still there licking their chops or chewing with no care in the world.
What happens next is a mixture of feelings: shock, disbelief, anger, regret. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to blame yourself for being so careless, or your dog for being so darn sneaky. Not to mention that there are some foods your dog shouldn’t get their paws on, since it could be life threatening for them to consume.
Once, all measures were taken but one of our dogs still managed to push back the chair from the dining table and use it to boost himself up. I still miss my pancakes to this day…
So knowing that dogs will find a way when food is concerned, how do you keep your dog from stealing food?
Tip 1: All Doggies Are Good Doggies
Let’s begin with the site’s motto. Even in this situation, it applies, believe it or not. When your dog steals food off the table, they’re not being bad.
The reason why your dog is stealing food is because it’s their instinct. Studies have shown that dogs were once scavengers, which means they’re always on the lookout for food. The very fact that the food is unattended makes our dogs think it’s fair game to eat it.
Dogs basically act the same with their peers. They protect their own food because any unattended food is for the taking. So with this mentality in mind, don’t get mad at your dog.
You may be disappointed and dismayed to lose your food, but your anger will only scare your dog. Either way, your food is gone. I know it’s not easy to let it go, but the less afraid your dog is, the better it will be for your relationship in the long run.
Tip 2: Manage Food Responsibly
A dog stealing food is only partly responsible. Food left out for them to take is not only temptation but practically an invitation for any dog who wishes to act on their instinct. It doesn’t matter how well-fed your dog is, they will still take your food if given a chance.
So in order to avoid stolen food, you should manage your food responsibly. Don’t leave any lying around where your dog has access, no matter how quickly you’re away. Clear tables and counters or better yet, keep food out of your dog’s reach.
The less chances you give your dog to keep on stealing food, the more times they are likely to try again. Because they’ve succeeded once, they feel ‘rewarded’ and will repeat the behavior of stealing food. The less chances of succeeding with reward, the less your dog will attempt to do it.
Tip 3: Punishment is Futile
It’s a common practice for some dog owners to scare off their dogs from counters with some specially designed booby traps, but we don’t recommend it. Not only are you setting up your dog to be afraid of a variety of things, some even employ shock to keep dogs at bay.
Now here’s why we won’t even use shock collars, so shock booby traps are just as out of the question.
Even noise-based traps are risky, since any sounds similar to them can stress your dog out for life. Besides, you won’t be able to set these traps up all the time, so why not prevent anything from happening in the first place?
Tip 4: Utilize Training
You may have started to apply some of our basic training tips on how to get your dog to sit, stay, or lie down. If you haven’t, now’s a good time to check that out. Why? Because it can keep your dog from counter surfing.
Teach your dog that food on the counter or table is off limits, even when you’re not paying attention to it. At first you’ll have to be there when they attempt to take the food so you can give the proper command, but you can gradually increase your distance from the kitchen to see if they’ll retain the training even when you’re away.
Don’t forget to use gentle and humane dog training methods to keep your dog safe and more responsive to training. This way, training will be both enjoyed and retained.
Tip 5: Keep Them Well Fed
I know we mentioned above that your dog will scavenge your food whether or not they’re fed regularly and enough, but as a preventative measure, keep your dog well fed. Dogs who don’t get to eat regularly or on a schedule may have difficulty relying on us to feed them, which can encourage their scavenging mentality.
Set a feeding schedule and a set amount of food for your dog. This way, they’ll have a sense of when to expect food that’s meant for them. This will not entirely remove their desire to counter surf, but it can work if done with the four other tips we’ve already mentioned.
A dog stealing food off counters and tables is no news for dog parents, but it’s still good to know that something can be done about it. While it may be funny for some to watch, it’s not always the case when the food is dangerous or you’re just plain hungry yourself.
These four tips will help you to holistically deal with this common canine catastrophe, so don’t forget to do them all with each other. Granted, tip number four may be enough on its own, but it would still be more effective to use all five.
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