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Arrgh! My Dog Keeps ‘Stealing’ Things ...

Does Rover run off with the TV remote or your slippers?!

Do you wonder why? And do you wish you could get Fido to give you back the ‘stolen’ items? Here are a few handy tricks to help you do just that!

Dog with remote in his mouth

1. Consider WHY your dog is ‘stealing’ items.

I put ‘stealing’ in inverted commas because its unlikely your dog is hell bent on a course of crime. More likely, Fido has worked out that taking things is an effective strategy to get your attention: Picture the scene you’re ‘chillin on the sofa’ – Fido is bored (he doesn’t watch tv, cant browse facebook or read a book). Fido spies the remote, which smells of your hands and the yummy things you’ve been eating and he’s often seen you ‘playing’ with it so, he picks it up in his mouth. You then leap off the sofa, shouting “drop” as you try to grab the remote back. From Fido’s point of view ‘stealing’ becomes a natty way to get your attention: It makes you look at him, speak to him and better still give him a game of chase. So, of course your dog is going to repeat the ‘stealing’ behaviour next time he’s bored.

2. Are You A “Toy Snatcher”?

If – in addition to stealing items – your dog then runs off and hides with it, usually its because Fido thinks you’re going to snatch it from him and leave him with zilch ... or something lesser: By way of analogy imagine you saw a £20 note lying on the ground, picked it up and then I swooped in and snatched the £20 from you. Next time I came near, you’d probably grip your wallet tightly and move as far away from me as possible! Its a similar scenario for Fido when he takes the remote or your slippers and you try to grab them off him – Fido sees you as a ‘toy snatcher’. However, the good news is that you can change all this ....

Dog with a stolen item in his mouth

3. Transform ‘Thieving Fido’ Into ‘Fabulous Fido!’

Get ready to play the “2-Toy-Swap”. Here’s little ‘Ruby’ the Cockerpoo pup showing you

  • When your dog has taken an item, eg the remote, instead of going towards your dog to grab it – walk away. Sounds weird but by doing so you devalue the object your dog has. It’s as though you’re saying “pah, that object is soooo dull, I cant even be bothered to look at it”;

  • Now, get a toy that Fido can have (something good in your dog’s eyes, maybe a furry tug or a squeaky toy, whatever your dog really likes). Now, start getting very interested in that toy: Talk to the toy, in fact go doolally over the toy! Usually Fido’s curiosity will get the better of him; he’ll wander towards you to investigate the wondrous object you hold in your hands. Bingo!

  • Wait till Fido gets close then make the toy you have come alive: snake it around on the floor, make it dart about as if its moving prey. This is usually enough to make Fido’s jaw drop open, releasing the ‘stolen’ item he had in his mouth (hurrah!) so he can chase the exciting toy that you’re playing with.

  • Its important that you now play with the (allowed) toy together for a minute or two. Have a really good game together. (Preferably away from where Fido dropped the contraband item; put some distance between the object you and your dog are playing with and the contraband item). Our goal is to communicate to Fido that the toy YOU have will always be the most exciting one because you can offer the best game.

  • Next, throw your toy – in the opposite direction to the contraband item – and as Fido chases after your toy, you discreetly pick up the contraband and put it somewhere safe/out of sight.

The “2-Toy-Swap” Works!

Practise playing the 2-toy-swap LOTS! (Dont just wait till Fido has ‘stolen’ something). When you start playing, it’s easier if you have 2 identical toys so you’re offering Fido an

equal swap each time. With regular practise, 2 things will start to happen:

  1. Your dog will get used to the concept of ‘swapping’

  2. Your dog willingly gives up the toy he or she has to come play with the toy that you

And the remote? Pah, what remote?! You now have a fun way to teach your dog that playing a game with you is much more fun than ‘stealing’ that remote. Clever huh?.

Article written by Joy Knowles. If you’d like more information about the “2-Toy-Swap” or help with any other dog training challenges, contact

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