Controlling Canine Thievery

Your Dog is Not a Wolf; You Don’t need to be Alpha

I added a rescue Labradoodle to my pack about a year ago. She’s always looking for something to eat. She’s well fed but when she gets something in her mouth she’s not supposed to have she won’t drop it and will growl at me if I try to take it from her. She scares me. I don’t know if she’ll bite me and I am clearly not alpha with this dog.

Dr. Nichol:
You can abandon the power struggle. It is actually rare for a dog to try to dominate a person. Your Labradoodle protects her contraband because, despite the abundance of food in your home, she regards it as a scarce resource. This innate canine behavior has helped the species survive. You can’t change it; it’s not about you anyway.

Eliminate this issue by completely isolating your dog from all creatures (including humans) while she eats. No one should go near her bowl until she walks away from it. Anything you don’t want her to have should be kept securely stowed. If your fuzzy felon filches something, ignore her or go with Plan B.

Some dogs steal garbage or non-food items. These canine characters of criminal intent should drag a leash from their collars whenever they are inside. At the first hint of your dog’s interest in an errant French fry or the TV remote you should completely ignore, grab the leash, and march with purpose to the treat jar. Then face your puckish prankster, have her perform a trick, and then immediately reward her with a snack. Forget reprimands; scolding only raises the tension.

Stop worrying about being alpha. There is no power struggle; our dogs are not politicians. Your Labradoodle is simply convinced that a famine will start in about 20 minutes. She is bent on surviving until spring and so must consume every morsel or risk starvation. Don’t buy it. Be your dog’s leader by requiring her to earn resources that you control.

Pets are wonderful. It’s good to love them like children but they really aren’t little people in furry suits. They are members of a different species. You can promote peace and well-being by respecting those differences. Be well, do good work, and avoid conflict.