Why Do Dogs Steal Things and How to Stop It

It can be pretty frustrating when your things go missing, but it’s so much worse when you find out that it’s your loyal pooch whose been hoarding your belongings and hiding them away from you. But why do dogs steal things, and is there a way to stop this behavior?

When your dog steals things, it’s never a malicious act; there is always a logical explanation behind this fairly common canine behavior, and this thieving behavior can be corrected. All you need to do is figure out why do dogs steal things, or rather why your particular Fido is doing that, and we can go from there. So here are some of the most common reasons why do dogs steal things and what you can do about it.

Your Dog Has too Much Pent Up Energy

The most common reason why do dogs steal things is lack of attention or entertainment.

A bored dog with not enough mental stimulation is likely to try and find ways to play with you and get your attention, or otherwise entertain himself. Puppies are known to grab things right in front of you in hopes for a chase, all the while you’re not in the mood for games – especially when it involves your personal belongings.

Most breeds have a natural prey drive and they love to catch balls, Frisbee discs, duck launchers, and anything else they can run after and catch. If they’ve got something you want and have purposely taken it, it's likely to get your attention. If you want to correct this behavior, then don’t give them the reaction they’re looking for.

In most cases, a dog will want you to yell, run, and chase after them; that’s the whole point of them nabbing the object anyway because they see it as part of the game. To stop your dog from stealing, act like you’re uninterested and reach for something else. The best option would be a toy that belongs to your pooch.

Your Dog's Brain Need a Challenge

Your Dog's Brain Need a ChallengeJust like us, dogs want and need to find something that works their minds and stimulates their cognitive functions. One way to keep your dog entertained and provide them with some mental stimulation is to use interactive dog toys such as treat dispensing toys or puzzle toys. These are usually balls or beehives like you see with the KONG brands and that can be stuffed with small treats.

Since the opening in treat dispensing dog toys is so small, your pooch has to work extra hard to shake the treats out and angle the opening in the correct direction. They’ll take at least forty-five minutes to an hour to get their snack, and it could take a little longer depending on your dog.

Another rewarding selection for your pet are puzzle bowls or any dog bowls that slow down eating. These are basic feeding bowls, but they have grooves and dips that require your pup to work a little hard in order to enjoy their meal. Not only does it give them something to focus intently on, but it also improves their digestion through prevention of swallowing food whole. It’s been suggested by professionals and trainers that dogs should have to work for their food because it makes them happier and gives them a job to do.

They Need Some Possessions of Their Own

We all have our favorite pair of pants or our favorite blanket or whatnot. Our pets have their favorite toys, beds, and bones too, and if your pets do not have that, then this could be one of the answers to why do dogs steal things in your household.

If your pooch spends a lot of time finding ways to take things from you, they probably just need something else to keep them entertained and help them feel more secure. It’s just a natural impulse for canines to steal and hide things because in the wild they prefer to bury objects that they don’t want others to find and that they want to use later. Take away the incentive to steal, and you’ll resolve the problem pretty quickly.

Other than providing mentally stimulating toys, the best way to stop dogs from stealing things is to find a toy or object that your Fido will fall in love with. For example, specifically these 14 toys are known to be loved by majority of dogs – try one of them and see if your pup can develop a strong relationship with it.

How to Keep Your Things (and your dog) Safe

How to Keep Your Things (and your dog) SafeIf you feel like you’ve tried everything, including interactive toys and your pup's favorite objects yet your dog just won’t leave your stuff alone, there are some tricks that might help.

Try dog repellents. They will prevent your pup from coming close to those objects he often likes to steal. You can also try natural solutions. For example, as long it’s not suede or other sensitive materials, you can spray the items with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water.

It won’t give off a bad smell or make things sticky, but it will taste bad for the dog. When dogs don’t like the way something tastes or smells, they give up on trying to eat, chew or steal it after a few tries. You can use this on trash cans and inside toilet bowls to keep your pet from using them as a diner and water fountain.

No matter what, don’t stop trying to teach your Fido the right way to behave. Dog behavioral training redirection techniques are best to prevent dogs from stealing things (i.e. ignoring your dog, and enticing them with more interesting yet appropriate items for them to “steal”.)

Sometimes owners get frustrated and resort to keeping their dogs locked in a crate. This is just a temporary solution, and it won’t fix the bigger issue at hand. In fact, sticking a frustrated, bored dog in a kennel is likely to make the situation worse; your pet may just end up hurting themselves after chewing up the crate or view the crate as punishment, which will make the use of a crate much more complicated in the future.

Know the Difference Between Stealing (normal behavior) and Aggressive Resource Guarding

Our dogs do appreciate having their own food bowls and toys, but you should be able to recognize what’s normal canine behavior and what is a problematic issue. If your dog likes to keep all their toys in one spot of the house, that’s usually fine. However, if at any point they begin to guard the object with their body, growl, or show teeth, that is considered aggression or more specifically resource guarding.

Know the Difference Between Stealing (normal behavior) and Aggressive Resource GuardingYou can avoid problems like this by making it clear from the beginning that you are the one who provides them with food. Putting your dog on a feeding schedule allows them to see that their food doesn’t just magically appear in the bowl.

When giving your dog gifts like bones and chews, always make it a point to handle them and grab them freely without hesitation. This way resource guarding and aggression never become an issue in the first place. Your dog understands that once you’re done, they’ll get their things back.

Other than the fact that you don’t want a destructive dog in your house, you don’t want your dog to take something that is potentially hazardous. Garlic, vape pens, cigarettes, essential oils, air freshener containers, and a number of other items in your home could be fatal to your pooch. Until you’ve got your dog’s theft issue handled, keep things locked up and out of their reach.

Even if you’re only planning to be away from your dogs for a few minutes, that’s all it takes for the pet to grab something off of a counter and tear it apart or ingest it. Take every precaution necessary, and provide your pet with plenty of healthy and stimulating distractions so that they aren’t tempted to snoop through your things and run away with them.

READ NEXT: Destructive Chewing – Why Dogs Love to Gnaw and How to Stop It

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This Is Why Do Dogs Steal Things and How to Stop It

Patrick has been a long-time dog adopter and currently lives with his two dogs - Tarzan and Loki - in Brooklyn, NY. He is a certified dog trainer, writer on all things dogs, animal shelter volunteer, freelancer researcher of animal sciences and aspiring author.