Why Your Dog Steals Food


why your dog steals foodMost dog owners have, at some point, had their dog steal food from the table, the kitchen side or even from right below their nose as they sit and watch the TV.

While this type of behaviour can seem harmless enough at first, there are some very real problems that can develop. If your dog is aggressive in taking the food or is simply causing a hazard to themselves by eating piping hot food or food that is otherwise unsuitable or dangerous to them then it needs to be dealt with.

First of all, it’s important to remember that dogs have no perception of ‘ownership’, particularly when it comes to food. As far as they are concerned, they own whatever is in their mouth at that time.

There are a great many reasons why dogs might steal food. Yes, some dogs may steal food because they are hungry, but there are other reasons why they might do it too. Some might have never been taught any better and are just inherently greedy, while others might steal food to seek attention from you or simply to combat boredom.

To tackle food stealing, there are a few rules to follow. First of all, make sure that you keep your dog fed, and feed it at the right times through the day, so it knows when to expect its meal time. Next, ensure that you take them for a walk, let them out in the garden or play a game with them before you leave the house for any extended period. This is because dogs will sometimes steal out of boredom, and particularly when you are out of the house. You can install safety gates, but it’s much better to solve the root of the problem which can be that they just need to release some energy.  However, when you are out the house make sure that any food is sealed and out of reach of your dog – this includes your bin!

Of course, the golden rule for avoiding food theft in the home is to never feed your dog from the table, as it encourages repeat behaviour like begging as well as risking digestive upsets.

Finally, you also need to be firm with your dog if you catch them red-handed. Your dog will only learn that it has done something wrong if you tell them. If you tell a dog off then you must not praise it after as this is confusing, however if you have taught your dog leave it as a happy command with rewards (so your dog is willing to leave) then this must be praised.

If you have tried telling your dog off and would prefer a happy leave it command or you are still having problems with your dog stealing food, then you should seek out help through dog behaviour classes. For more information about dog behaviour therapy sessions, please visit https://www.witsend4pets.co.uk/behaviour.php or alternatively call us on 0116 244 2455 to book a session.

About the author

Dr Shahad Mohammed
Veterinary Physiotherapist
National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists