Raising a dog is like raising a baby with a lot of energy; to raise a puppy, you must be very patient so instructing him on the appropriate behavior is not a painful task. All dogs, especially puppies, love playing the fun game of “Catch me if you can.” Sometimes, even when they are trained dogs, they still want to play.
You may notice your dog starts slowly sneaking up to you, grabs a random object, and then runs away, so you run after him. Younger dogs are more prone to have more compulsive behaviors, but all dogs, at any time, tend to have a “grab and dash” behavior.
Your dog’s behavior depends on you. As an owner, one of the most common reactions in these cases is to chase him and force him to return the object, but no matter how valuable the item is, both of these reactions can make your situation even worse, so you must take it easy. However, with some behavior management and interventions, your little thief friend can learn to leave your items alone and play only when the time comes.
Why Do Dogs Steal Things and Run Away?
Puppies are just like human babies; everything is new for them, and they explore to learn about the world around them. One of the ways to do that is through their mouth. Dogs only understand wants and needs; they do not understand possessions of objects, so if your dog wants or needs something, he takes it and wants to keep it.
If you run after him to take it back, your dog learns that if he grabs certain items, you chase him. Chasing him shows him that being chased is a fun activity and that if he starts grabbing objects around you, you run after him to take it back to where it belongs. To your dog, this is a very fun activity.
If you have a grown dog that’s grabbing certain items and running away, it might be for several reasons. Taking some objects to chew is in their nature; most of them do this to drain nervous energy. If your dog is spending a lot of time confined in your house or your apartment, he might be prone to steal objects to shake that energy out.
Some other items often stolen by dogs are your belongings, such as clothing, socks, underwear, and shoes; the reason is usually about wanting to be around you. If your dog steals food, it is more about craving than hunger. The act of stealing is self-rewarding for dogs; he gets stimulated, chased, fed, and comforted, which means he is winning. Your dog doesn’t see items as they belong to someone; he only wants or needs something, so he takes it.
To control that, we are giving you four professional tips to create better behavior management when your dog steals things and runs away!
#1. Play with Him Regularly!
Ask yourself why your dog might be stealing your things and running away. It’s because he is seeing it as a game, and dogs love to play games. If your dog starts to steal your stuff more often, the reason may be that he is just bored and looking for a way to be more entertained.
To help this, make sure to buy plenty of toys for him to play with; schedule rewarded training sessions, take him out to walk, and play with him when you have some free time. That way, he can have more productive ways to liberate some energy.
There are many fun ways to play with your dog that can keep him physically and mentally active indoors, such as playing a game of finding the treats, teach your dog to clean up his toys, play a game of tug of war, teach your dog new tricks, etc.
#2. Manage the Entire Environment
Leaving items that your dog can steal or has stolen in the past can be more problematic than putting them in some other place. Sometimes it is better to keep those items out of reach from your dog than repeatedly take them away from your dog.
For example, if your dog often steals socks and underwear, start putting them somewhere your dog can’t open. Another method is to keep at least one of your dog’s favorite toys in every room. That way, when he is looking for an item to steal, he finds his toy and starts playing with it.
If he doesn’t grab his toy and takes any other object, the sound of his squeaky toy or the sound of a bouncing ball is usually enough for dogs to drop your item and go after the toy.
#3. Go the Other Way
If your dog’s motivation to grab something and run away is to get you playing, she might chase you as well. Allow your dog to run after you in a small place for a short time, then close the door and try to convince your dog to give you the object willingly.
#However, if your dog’s motivation is to keep the item rather than playing, this won’t work; in that case, try following your dog quietly, but do not corner or trap your dog. In this scenario, they tend to be more possessive, so after you reach your dog, try to negotiate with your dog to give you your precious item.
#4. Just Ignore Him!
Ignoring his stealing behavior if the stolen item is something you don-t care too much about can help to decrease that behavior. If your dog steals something and runs away, he is doing that to get your attention. When you chase him, your dog continues engaging in that behavior because he thought it was a fun way to get you to play with him. Removing his reward, which is to follow his game, he may start believing the game is no longer entertaining, and he consequently engages in it less and less.
These are just a few things you can do to stop your dog’s behavior of stealing things and running away. If these tips don’t help, your dog may need to see a professional trainer.