Dogs are opportunists. With their fantastic senses, especially smell , and skills at observation and sleath they are amazing at exploiting any opportunity for gain. Of course they want the tasty sandwich sitting on the counter or to check out what yummy scraps were thrown in the trash. To them that’s like hitting the jackpot. Other items, including cell phones, wallets, books, etc., can also be of interest and it can be dangerous for the dog to snatch certain things, not to mention annoying for the owner.
Dogs are interested in these items for a variety of reasons. Food is yummy, trash has a great variety of smells and taste and anything grabbed in your presence might begin a fun game of chase. This “game” of you chasing is most often rewarding for the dog as he gets lots of attention.
The first step in keeping your dog and your stuff safe is to limit the opportunity for your dog so he doesn’t have the chance to score a valuable item. The more often your dog gets lucky when counter surfing or at trash raiding the more often he will engage in these behaviors. Use a baby gate or crate to keep your dog away from the counters when food is being prepared and served.
Keep counters clear of food and any other objects your dog finds interesting. Utilize drawers, cabinets and the pantry to keep it out of reach. Use trash cans with very secure lids or keep trash behind closed doors, such as in cabinets or in the pantry.
You will need to train your dog to drop and leave items. This is very important to keep your dog safe and to avoid giving him that attention he gets when you chase him and try to get the item back. This will also be the safest way to get something away from your dog –always avoid forcibly taking something out of his mouth so he doesn’t guard it.
Trade and Drop It
Safety first! – Never pull something out of your dog’s mouth or possession. Teach a reliable drop it/trade to ensure safety. One great way is to teach a dog the proper rules of tug. You will need an appropriate toy and some very tasty treats in your bait bag or pocket.
- The game only starts we you initiate it by asking the dog to sit and then offering the toy. Add a cue like “Take It”.
- Once they are playing with you for 20 to 30 seconds cue the dog to “Drop” and follow the cue with an offer of one of the tasty treats. This is like a trade!
- Let them finish the treat
- Reengage them by cueing “Take it” and offer the toy
- Repeat every 20 to 30 seconds during the training session
- Practice these rules – be consistent and gentle. Remember it is a learning game!
Teaching Leave It/Trade
Teaching the dog to leave something alone. This is not to be confused with Drop It (dog drops something from his mouth).
- Fill hand with treats and make a fist on the floor (or in the air).
- Let the dog investigate your hand (he may paw and lick and push your hand but do not let him have any treats).
- The instant he stops trying to get the treats from your hand say, “Good” and give him a treat reward from your treat bag or pocket.
- Practice this step until your dogs no longer tries to get the treats from your closed hand, when offered.
- Add a cue, “Leave it” at this stage as you present the hand.
- Increase the challenge for your dog by starting to have the hand slightly open over treats on floor, then over an elevated surface and finally progress to dropping food to floor.
- Don’t rush the process. Practice each step until your dog is successful several times before moving on to a harder stage.