Great Ways to Get a Puppy to Stop Stealing Things

By: David Codr

Published Date: January 3, 2017

Sonnie is a six-month-old female Airedale Terrier living in West Omaha. Her guardians asked us for some puppy obedience training help to stop puppy from jumping up on people, counter surfing, nipping, mouthing and snatching things from the grandkids.

Sonnie was a little excited once she heard the doorbell; jumping up on me within a few seconds of my stepping inside her home.

After discussing Sonnie’s behavior with her guardians, I came to the conclusion that many of her behavioral problems were a result of a lack of rules and structure. Dogs probe to determine where boundaries and limits are. But if we don’t have many rules we don’t do much consistent correcting which can give the dog the impression that they have the same authority as the humans they live with. When a dog considers itself a on a peer level with its guardians, then listening to them becomes optional.

I suggested a number of rules and boundaries then shared some non verbal communication methods that the guardians can use to warn or correct Sonnie when she broke them. I made sure to stress how important the timing of these corrections are. Dogs learn through association so the sooner we correct a reward a dog, the easier it is for them to understand what we are trying to say. I recommend petting or correcting a dog within a maximum of three seconds as a general rule.

Speaking of petting, I noticed that Sonnie frequently invaded the personal space of her guardians; leaning or laying on them. It wasn’t hard to determine why; every time she got near one of them they immediately started to pet her. Anytime we pet a dog we are rewarding them for whatever they are doing at the time. So by petting a dog when it jumps up on us when we are sitting, we are telling them jumping up is the best way to ask a human for attention.

I recommended that the guardians use my Petting with a Purpose method. This involves telling the dog to sit or lay down any time they paw, nudge or jump up on us for attention. As soon as the dog complies, the guardian should pet her while simultaneously saying the command word. Over time this helps the dog learn to sit as a way of asking for attention instead of jumping up.

As I was wrapping up that discussion, Sonnie jumped up on me a few times so I showed the guardians one of the tricks I use to train a dog to stop jumping up. If the dog’s guardians apply this same technique each time she jumps up for the next week and start petting Sonnie with a purpose, the dog will stop jumping up.

Some of Sonnie’s unwanted behaviors can be attributed to her being a puppy, but there is one puppy training secret that can help with multiple problems; developing more self control.

I spent a few minutes going over ways that the humans can start to delay gratification. I like to find ways to add short delays in repetitive tasks or activities that a dog is excited or looks forward to. Since we do these daily or multiple times a day, getting into a habit of asking a dog to wait for permission to eat, go outside, fetch the ball, etc is a great and easy way to help them develop self control. Development of self control will go a long ways toward eliminating many of Sonnie’s issues.

Another related issue was Sonnie’s habit of snatching things off the floor and from the guardian’s grandchildren when they visit. I decided to go over a simple Leave It exercise to help train the puppy that just because something is on the floor or in reach, it doesn’t mean its for the puppy.

I recommended that the guardians practice this exercise a few times a day in short 1-2 minute training sprints. At first they should pick up the treat and give it to Sonnie as soon as she backs off. But once she is consistent doing so, the next step is to start increasing the length of time we wait before picking up the treat to give it to her.

Once the Sonnie can ignore the treat a good amount of time, the next step is to repeat the exercise from a standing position while going back to a one second delay, then working back up to a minute of the puppy not going for the treat by adding in a few additional seconds of delay each practice session. Any time you are training a puppy or adult dog, moving in small incremental steps is a key to success.

By incorporating rules and structure and stop petting Sonnie for engaging in unwanted actions and behaviors, it shouldn’t take her long to stop jumping up, snatching things and develop self control which will help in many aspects of her life.

Roadmap to Success:

  • Incorporate rules to help Sonnie start to identify as a follower.
  • Get into a habit of defining personals space.
  • Use the displayed method to discourage Sonnie from jumping up on people.
  • Enforce rules and boundaries immediately, within 3 seconds max.
  • Use the Escalating Consequences to disagree with Sonnie non verbally.
  • Pet Sonnie with a Purpose instead of when she paws or nudges for attention.
  • Pet / reward after pup does any desired behavior while saying the command word (Here, sit, crash, up).
  • Do not pet puppy when it jumps up or engages in any unwanted action or behavior.
  • Retract hand any time Sonnie jumps up, puts a paw on their arm or gets too excited.
  • Practice the leave it exercise 4 x a day in short 1 minute sessions (5-10 treats).
  • Yelp loudly and freeze whenever pup’s teeth tough a human’s skin.
  • Practice the Focus exercise a few times a day while gradually increasing delay in delivering treat on second movement.
  • Practice answering the door while keeping Sonnie back behind the new boundaries.
  • Use the MacGyver counter trick or Ssscat to keep Sonnie off the counters.
  • Get Sonnie plenty of exercise an hour before any guests or grandchildren visits.
  • Keep Sonnie on the leash a few minutes after returning from walk to prevent over excited interactions.
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This post was written by: David Codr

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