Dear Porky and Buddy,
I really hope you can help me.
My dog, Rusty, is my best pal, but he has a terrible habit of stealing things – socks, remotes, towels, magazines, whatever.
When I tell him to stop, it turns into a huge chase scene with me yelling at him to put whatever it is down, which he never does.
Unless I can corner him and force him to give it back to me I have to wait until he gets distracted by something else before I can (maybe) retrieve it.
It’s pretty frustrating.
What can I train him to do to correct this behavior?
Rusty is already perfectly trained.
You have taught him that when he wants attention from you all he has to do is pick something up, anything really, and you will chase him around and around to his total bliss.
The fact that sometimes you are able to corner him and force him to drop something does not detract from the bliss.
It detracts from your relationship with him in the long run, but not the bliss.
You have to stop providing bliss.
Rusty has to learn that he does not get attention of any kind for this behavior.
We know, it’s hard.
Those are your precious socks.
Get over it.
Rusty has to learn that he gets attention when he is not stealing stuff.
Start by picking up and putting away anything at all that could hurt him if he chews it, i.e. the remote.
You have to be diligent about this because your are going to lose some stuff before Rusty learns that it doesn’t work any more for attention.
So leave out some old socks or shoes, something that you know he likes and when Rusty picks them up PAY NO ATTENTION WHATSOEVER.
Don’t even look at him.
When he finally gives up – no matter how long it takes – then leave the socks where they are and pay attention to Rusty.
Take him for a walk, give him a little treat, throw some balls for him, whatever he likes to do.
Start being mindful of paying attention to Rusty before he starts demanding attention with his misbehavior.
You will have to do this day after day after day after day. But you can do it.
In fact you will probably enjoy spending more time with Rusty in activities that you both actually like.
Eventually, but not right away you are going to have to teach Rusty the command “leave it” or “drop it.”
That is an important command for dogs that tend to pick things up to explore them, but don’t try that yet.
Concentrate for now on teaching Rusty that he NEVER gets attention when he snatches something off the floor and runs with it.
And it goes without saying that you must be really careful, during this “retraining” period, of what you leave within Rusty’s reach.
Good luck and happy blissful times with your best pal!
The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.
Located at 29 W. Seneca St., Oswego, NY.
Email: [email protected]
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