My puppy is a thief!

I am answering a Frequently Barked Question: How do I stop my puppy from stealing things?

I have been told about puppies running away with items of clothing when their bipeds are getting dressed, puppies running off with the remote control when their bipeds want to watch television, puppies unpacking the children’s school bags and puppies taking and chewing shoes – to name but a few things these rascals are getting up to.

Puppies just want to have fun! The idea of ownership is a very human view of things. Your puppy is inviting you to play. If you’ve ever chased after your puppy to get something back then you’ve inadvertently accepted the invitation and rewarded the behaviour. Playing at keeping an item from bipeds is a lot of fun! I love to play this game in the garden where there’s plenty of room to run around, but I only do this with one of my toys when my bipeds have agreed to play. I will explain why I stopped trying to take things from my bipeds.

Pyrenean Mountain Dog, or Great Pyrenees, puppy with Tibetan Terrier puppy

Puppies just want to have fun!

My bipeds tried to avoid situations where I could take something and they also did training with me so that I would learn not to take things. My bipeds were very tidy when I was young, they put everything, even all their shoes, into cupboards so that I couldn’t often get hold of anything I shouldn’t – I can tell you now that being tidy doesn’t come naturally to them! They also only allowed me in certain rooms – the ones where they weren’t leaving anything interesting for me to get at!

My bipeds ensured that I had plenty of playtime at fairly regular intervals and I had short training sessions. One of the things they taught me was “give it”, which meant that I should exchange whatever I had for something that they were holding to give me. Sometimes I had to think hard about whether I wanted to swap, but they were always offering me something more interesting.

They also taught me “leave it”. They began this by putting a fairly boring treat on the floor and when I went to take it they covered it with a hand. I didn’t try very hard to get it and when I stopped trying I was rewarded with a very tasty treat. When I knew the request to “leave it” they gradually did this with more interesting things, but the reward was always nicer than whatever I was being asked not to touch.

Cartoon of dog raiding rubbish, drinking from toilet etc.

A few examples showing when “leave it” could be useful!
Attribution: By LELE43 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

They also worked with me on sitting when asked. This seemed an easy way to earn a tasty treat, lots of praise, or some playtime with them. We did this so often that “sit” is almost automatic and they use this to their advantage!

With these three requests at their disposal, it was impossible for me to run off with something and have a game. If they saw me about to pick something up they would say, “leave it”. I would get a treat and then be encouraged to play with one of my own toys. If I managed to pick something up before they noticed, they would ask me to “sit”, and then they would approach me and ask me to “give it”. Again, I would be given a treat and encouraged to play with one of my own toys.

I noticed that if I was settled down playing with one of my own toys, they would often give me a treat as they walked past. They would also tell me how pleased they were with me and sometimes they would join in the game with my toy! I gradually gave up trying to get them to play with things like the remote control, as they never joined in. It was more rewarding to play with one of my own toys and if they chose to join in that made it even better!

See you next Wednesday!

75 Comments

  1. It sounds like you and your bipeds make a great team, Clowie—and great teachers. It would be wonderful if all bipeds who share their homes with dogs would study with you to learn from your experiences!

  2. Clowie, I need you to teach my bipeds!

  3. Clowie, your bipeds are very smart and knew how to train you correctly. Unfortunately we could name quite a few dogs we know whose bipeds never bothered and they are a real nuisance because they do just what your bipeds avoided teaching you to do.

  4. Puppies definitely keep life interesting! Great tips! I realized recently we never taught Rita “leave it”. Never needed to, because she never picks up things that aren’t hers. And she’s very suspicious about most foods, so doesn’t try to eat things off the floor/street. (Complete opposite of our last pup!)

  5. Top tips! Pop across to my blog, there is a little something for you (although I am sure you have already received it about a million times!!)

  6. Mom L immediately taught their 3 Sibes to ‘sit’ and “leave it” also she worked with them constantly to make sure they always allowed her to take anything from their mouths, anytime…even their dinner

    • Hi Savvy, those are all very important things for a dog to know. I’m glad you mentioned dinner – I’ve put it on my list of things to write about.

  7. Great tips, Clowie! Maya and Pierson were both amazingly easy to teach when it came to only playing with their own things.

  8. If only humans realized that stealing stuff is an honor! So is it when I bring MY toys to them.

    • I don’t need to tell you that humans have a very strange view of things! Occasionally I’ve found something really interesting and smelly when we’ve been out and brought it to them – only to be rudely told “drop it!”

  9. These training commands come in very useful when teaching the wild and out of control pups in the pack some measure of respect! And I have spent the last 3 days translating a whole long list of K9 commands from English to Russian and Polish :) No…I haven’t lost it! I have completed learning Polish to Business level and Russian is pretty similar so I raced through the beginners course – the only one available for Russian in a matter of days. The aim being to be able to help the numerous Polish dog owners round here how to train their dogs to be better K9 citizens. Trouble is they speak mostly not much English, and their dogs inevitably only bark in Polish and what little they have been taught is also Polish only. So! No good them going to dog training classes! So hopefully in can step Wolfie :) The Russian is for my own interest only at this point but translating simple dog commands has taken longer than I expected and it was more complex than I first thought. In case you want to try it lol here are a few examples using the commands you mentioned here :) You see Clowie, if you bark in a different language you’re not going to respond to English commands cos you won’t understand them! So less chance of your gorgeous self being stolen!!

    SIT! … POLISH…Siedzieć (Shed-zitch) RUSSIAN,,,Сидеть! (Shid-jeet)
    LEAVE IT! … POLISH… Zostaw to (Zost-av tO) RUSSIAN…Оставьте его (Ostaveetch yeegoh)
    GOOD DOG … POLISH…Dobry pies (Dobreay pee-as) RUSSIAN… Хорошая собака (Har-oh-sha sabaaka)

    • Russian looks very different from Polish, but I can see in the sample you’ve given me that the sound of some of the words is similar. I don’t have a clue how to say most of the Russian alphabet!

      I think you may have found a new niche in phrase books. For animal lovers going on holiday, being able to ask to pat the dog and say ‘good dog’ could be just as useful as being able to ask for two beers and a sandwich!

      • The Russian alphabet is like listening to a biped bark in biped…secret code! Fun to work it out and decipher the Russian dog training commands though possibly not quite as rewarding as deciphering biped barks since they usually lead to a nice tasty treat!!

  10. There’s a lot of useful information for “new” dog owners, Clowie. Your bipeds must be the ideal of dog parents, aren’t they? You’re a great dog though! :-)

  11. That’s a very cute puppy picture Clowie. Is it you and a friend? I quite like the commands: give it/leave it. Simple sounds for you to remember. Buddy wasn’t a puppy when we got him so it wasn’t too much of an issue as I recall, but I sure learn a lot here. If I’m ever adopting another dog, I hope to remember your tips. Have a wonderful week.

    • Thank you. Yes, that is me with a Tibetan Terrier puppy who is a month or so older than I am. We would play until we were both exhausted and then take a nap! I hope you’re having a great week!

  12. Grrreat post! I’m especially glad you posted it after I was able to have all my fun in the realm of stolen goods, Clowie. Elizabeth is typing this thinking, “I wish I’d taught her ‘Give it'”. I learned ‘sit’ and ‘leave it’ at obedience class, but I still choose to reserve judgement on whether to obey or not – only on occasion. BOL.
    Affectionately, your friend, Stella the Great Newfenees

    • Thank you, Stella! I’m glad you had some fun stealing things. I generally did my best to liven things up at obedience class – there was far too much repetition for my liking!

      • I was too little to know how to do that. I started off the smallest dog there and by the end of my eight weeks of classes was the second biggest (I caught up to him later, BOL). I just loved how excited Elizabeth got when I did things right, and I also wanted to show the bigger, older dogs that I was capable of being just as good as they were. ~:oD=

  13. such an important command Clowie which so many humans do not even think about…great post

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