Does your dog steal things and run right up to you with a gleeful look in his eye? What do you do? You jump up from the couch and chase him through the house to get it back. You think he's being defiant and you tell him he is a bad dog.
Not true. He has learned what it takes to get your attention and he's doing it. All your dog wants from you is attention. He has discovered playing with his own toys doesn't get him your attention, but pick up something of yours and the game is on!
Dogs love to be chased and quickly learn to initiate a game of chase by grabbing socks from the laundry, a Kleenex tissue out of the trash or shoes out of the closet. They don't care that you're chasing them screaming "bad dog!" They have your complete attention and they love it! Playing with their toys never gets such a reaction from you, but it should.
The next time your dog has something he should not, do not chase him. Pick up one of his toys and make it seem like it is the most exciting thing in the room. If it squeaks, squeak it, if it bounces, bounce it. Pay no attention to the dog, only the toy.
Your dog will look at you with curiosity and will then do one of two things. Drop the item and come to you to play. Or he will bring the item to you and you can trade him for it. Whichever happens, you are rewarding either the come or the trade. Dogs associate their behavior with whatever they did in the previous seconds. So by doing this you are rewarding either the come or the trade. Not the act of stealing the thing he had picked up 15 seconds ago.
Change it up. Pick one of your dog's favorite toys to start the game of chase. When he picks up that toy, chase him around the house. Yell at him in a playful voice, "What have you got?" "Give me that!" He will soon begin bringing you his toy to initiate a game of chase instead of things that he should not have.
If your dog continues to bring the toy to you and you are not able to carry on the chase game, put the toy away and give him a tasty chew, such as a rawhide, bully stick or stuffed food toy to occupy his time.
Paying attention to your dog when he's doing something wrong will likely cause him to continue doing it. Instead try joining him when he's playing with his own toys and initiate an activity with him. Give him a belly rub, tell him he is a good dog. Reward him for choosing his own toys! Remember if playing with his toys gets your attention, he will be more likely to play with his toys in the future and leave your stuff alone.
Tip of the week: Dogs do things that get your attention, so pay attention to the good things! Be consistent and watch the change take place.
Bark questions to: Canine Companion, 11652 North - 825 West, Huntington, IN 46750 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canine Companion conducts dog training classes in Fort Wayne, Huntington and surrounding communities and behavior consulting nationwide. Along with their combined 30 years experience and endorsement by national organizations, the trainers are all graduates of Purdue University's DOGS! Program and have earned the title of Certified Pet Dog Trainer through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.