please help me address this behaviour

(22 Posts)
petitdonkey Wed 28-Aug-13 09:43:17

Darling Dog is 18 months old and pretty well behaved apart from his habit of stealing items then making a run for it - I have just managed to get DDs bike helmet from him mainly because he dropped it and couldn't pick it up again. It is often a shoe, a towel from the paddling pool, a dolly's blanket - notably once, a pair of Prada sunglasses. If the back door is open he will make a run for the garden and then we are screwed!!

I really do think he knows he shouldn't, my ears prick up at the run he does and then he's gone. I am trying SO hard not to turn it into a fun game but it is so frustrating. (DH never wanted a dog, has learnt to get along with him but this causes an enormous amount of tension.)

Last week, DD (4) had a friend to play and just as they were leaving, the dog nicked her friends cuddly toy and she was distraught. The only way to get it back wuickly is to get out my treats tin but I am aware this is rewarding bad behaviour.

If we are in the house I can do over the top, baby voice 'good boy, drop' typr commands and he will (reluctantly) give it up but if he makes it to the garden it's much harder. I can ignore him, shut the door and he will sometimes give up but, as in the case of my sunglasses, the item has already been damaged beyond repair. We have a large garden so going on a hunt to find one lost sandal is a pain.

What do I do?? In summary (well done if you've read this far!!) I need to teach him to reliably 'drop' although I'd much rather he didn't take the stuff in the first place. We are all reasonably tidy but it's such a pain always having to remember to shut the laundry room door for example as he will go in and take something. I spend my life saying 'shut that door' or 'don't leave that there' and it's not fair on the family.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

petitdonkey Wed 28-Aug-13 09:44:13

excuse the typos!

Awks Wed 28-Aug-13 09:54:14

You can't teach him not to nick stuff, you have to teach yourselves not to leave stuff lying around but I guess you know that. It is a pain but that's the way life is until he learns It's a massive game for him at the moment and he has sussed that you make a big fuss and play chase when he nicks stuff.

Watch this and then try teaching him to leave it using a clicker http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNAOe1djDyc - do it in your kitchen with high value treats so that he realises the treat is better than the stolen item?

It is annoying and I feel your pain. My dog nicked socks and then buried them in the garden grin

Whoknowswhocares Wed 28-Aug-13 10:07:16

Why on earth is 'don't leave that there' not fair on the family? It's hardly a big deal to put valuable or dangerous stuff where the dog can't get it, is it?

A trainer gave me a tip along the lines of double bluffing said dog. She would nominate a 'stealing' item that the dog thought it wasn't allowed. She used a tea towel. She hung the tea towel on a peg or whatever and of course the dog stole it. This gave her the opportunity to ignore the dog and not turn it into a game or bribe, which lessened the appeal of grabbing it over time. Each time the dog got bored, she simply hung it back on the peg

moosemama Wed 28-Aug-13 10:39:28

We have similar issues with our 12 week old pup, although with him it's things like stones and fallen fruit in the garden, rather than our belongings.

Awks is right, everyone needs to be more vigilant about not leaving things where he can get them. Teaching leave it is also a good idea and has a million and one uses, from getting him to leave other dogs alone in the park, to stopping him rolling or eating some of the disgusting items dogs always seem to manage to find when they're out on a walk.

I'm addressing it by using the clicker to teach him a positive interrupter. This Kikopup video explains it better than I could.

Basically, it's an alternative to punitive or coercive methods of stopping dogs from doings something they enjoy, but you would rather they didn't do and is designed to maintain a positive bond and relationship by not introducing negatives into his training. So you wouldn't say 'NO' or 'Ah Ah' or grab him, instead you would train him to look at you the second he hears his conditioned interrupter sound and then you can redirect him into more appropriate behaviours. It makes looking at and returning to you more rewarding than the undesirable behaviour, without the need to tell him off.

We are using "What's this" said very quickly. He is massively better in just a couple of days and now looks up the minute he hears the cue and then comes charging towards me to get his treat.

petitdonkey Wed 28-Aug-13 11:06:03

We are off out but I will read and watch everything with interest later - thank you.

whoknows - I have no problem telling the children to put their shoes in the correct place but it's unfair when the girls are trying to play with their dolls in the garden but he takes a blanket, or DH is gardening and can't put his gloves down or DS is in the paddling pool and left his towel or crocs on the grass. None of it is 'valuable or dangeroug' just everyday family life.

moosemama Wed 28-Aug-13 11:51:09

If I were you, I'd work on both 'Leave' and a positive interrupter to give you the best chance of both stopping him stealing things in the first place and/or interrupting him to retrieve the item if he does.

Bowlersarm Wed 28-Aug-13 12:03:38

OP I thought that was normal behaviour! My 5 year old lab will nick a gardening glove, a croc or whatever is laying around. Great game! I just do keep things out of his way.

The dog equivalent of toddler proofing.

TheCunnyFunt Wed 28-Aug-13 12:03:49

And getting him to drop the stolen item for a tasty treat isn't exactly rewarding bad behaviour, it's more like rewarding good behaviour, he gives it back and gets a treat. You can make it fun, for example, if he steals a shoe, you can say the word 'shoe' in a voice that you'd use for training, then treat him when he hands it over. Eventually you'll be able to say 'shoe' to him and he'll fetch it for you grin

Floralnomad Wed 28-Aug-13 12:10:54

You may find he grows out of it ,for the first 18 months of having our dog you couldn't leave anything soft anywhere unless you wanted it chewed . I forgot one morning and left a pile of very expensive sheets / duvet covers by the washing machine waiting to go in and he sat on them and chewed great holes . He also used to jump up and take washing off the rotary drier in the garden ( usually my sons designer t shirts !) . He hit about 2.5 and really is much better ,he has the odd go at a slipper but does it sneakily by dropping a stag bar inside it and then he's got an excuse to be 'playing ' with it . He was 3 in June and this is the first year that I've felt my washing is safe outside .

Lonecatwithkitten Wed 28-Aug-13 12:11:16

I agree with Cunny getting the dog to drop, leave or give the item find then giving a treat is not rewarding the bad behaviour, but rewarding the response to the command you have given.
Equally I my house if you do not shut the bedroom door and the sylvanians are taken into the garden and become multiple amputees really that s your fault.
I taught the leave it command by placing lovely yummy treat on ground as he went to it commanding leave it in firm voice as he looked up at me he was rewarded with even yummier treat.

Lilcamper Wed 28-Aug-13 12:42:48

Dogs don't steal. They aquire things. They are opportunistic by nature and anything within reach is fair game smile

petitdonkey Wed 28-Aug-13 17:24:27

Thank you all - maybe I'm expecting too much from him? His 'leave' is really good again in close quarters so I could put a sausage on the floor and he will 'leave' or 'wait' according to command. It's just the making a run with stuff that drives me nuts - you are all right though, I'm glad to hear that getting out the treat tin to get him to drop is a good idea.

I will look at the links with clicker training but I haven't had much success with it before (me being bad at it, not him!)

We were at the beach today and there were some lovely dogs all running off lead and I thought that there is no way I could do that with him as he's be grabbing towels and beach balls! On the upside though, he's lovely with other dogs, so gentle with all children and great for cuddles - I will take all of your advice and wait for this phase to pass in two or three years time grin

thanks all

petitdonkey Wed 28-Aug-13 17:25:13

lilcamper grin

Oh and he adores these tennis

Lilcamper Wed 28-Aug-13 17:38:17

Camper dog 'aquired' dd's brand new puppet that she was having a picnic with in the garden and scarpered under the trampoline earlier. I had to run in the house to get a handful of chopped up crab sticks to lob in the general direction of him whilst saying a cheery 'drop'. Got it back intact but slobbery grin

moosemama Wed 28-Aug-13 17:48:25

Lilcamper, that sounds like me every time my pup goes in the garden. I have now learned to only wear trousers/jeans with big pockets and always have at least one full of treats. I don't smell great, but at least he's finally learning.

This weekend's job is removing all the stones from alongside the path at the side of the house, because he keeps picking them up and running off with them and I'm terrified he'll swallow one. Managed to keep him off them today by sprinkling them with Tea Tree oil, but that's not going to work when the weather changes. hmm

Wouldn't mind, but we've only just managed to remove every single greengage from the tree and it's environs, as it was those he was into last weekend.

Lilcamper Wed 28-Aug-13 19:08:07

Believe it or not moosemama, I don't use any deterrents at all because I consider them aversive. I prefer to find positive methods smile

moosemama Wed 28-Aug-13 19:19:08

I totally agree with using non-aversive methods Lilcamper, hence using positive interrupter and diversion.

However I don't consider sprinkling a few drops of something he doesn't like the smell of in the area around some stones to stop him doing himself serious damage if he gets to them before me aversive. If I was screaming at him, restraining him or frightening him out of approaching the stones that would be aversive. I consider it better to make them unappealing to him until I have time to permanently remove them, than to allow him to come to serious physical harm by ingesting them.

If he does anything or goes anywhere that I don't want him to he will come racing back to me at 100 miles an hour with major enthusiams at the sound of his interrupter. It doesn't upset or punish him in any way, it gives him the choice between what he's doing or coming to me and getting something even more rewarding.

He's 12 weeks old and chooses me about 90-95% of the time at the moment, but, if he should happen to get to the stones before I have chance to get in the reinforcer (eg if one of the dcs opens the back door without thinking) I need to have done something to stop him potentially coming to harm.

idirdog Wed 28-Aug-13 19:35:20

Your dog is trying to tell you something smile

He wants YOU to play with him now. I would get him his own tuggy toy and play and play and play with him.

I would also prevent him from getting hold of many items eg if DD are playing pop him in his crate or in another room, or on a lead for a bit.

If he does get something just ignore, take no notice at all, turn your back on him, close the door if he has gone outside. After a few minutes call him waving your tuggy toy - he will prefer to play with you than what he has stolen.

Lilcamper Wed 28-Aug-13 21:02:45

moosemama supervision is what I do with a solid leave cue and lots of smelly treats smile until the stones are boring.

moosemama Wed 28-Aug-13 21:26:42

That isn't any different than teaching a positive interrupter though is it. Whatever the cue, be it 'leave' or an interrupter sound such as Kikopup's kissy noise, a whistle or my 'what's this' the process and end result is the same, the dog redirects their attention to you and gets a reward for doing so.

I also use constant supervision. In fact I've done nothing else but supervise my new pup since we brought him home just over two weeks ago, but he is just that - a pup - and a lurcher pup with a short attention span to boot. Lots of short, positive clicker sessions will eventually ensure he has a reliable response, but until then, I need to be sure he isn't going to injure or endanger himself in the event of things not going to plan. I have 3 dcs and they are being amazing around the pup and remembering most of what we discussed and planned before getting him, most of the time, but they are just kids, are on holiday and occasionally forget to shut the door properly behind them.

Pup and I have been working on both 'Leave' and 'What's this' and he's doing really well, but I can only cue him to leave the stones if I get there before or at the same time as him - and he can move pretty fast if he hears the back door open. I could keep him on a long line, but that would be restrictive. I could add another dog-gate, but the dcs would be bound to forget to close that, as well as the back door at some point as well. So, until my pup can be 100% relied upon not to touch the stones if he gets through the door before I do, I prefer not to run the risk - hence the tea tree.

I work very hard to make sure I am in no way coercive or punitive to my dogs and I don't appreciate the implication that by making some stones smell less attractive I am being either of those things or that because I am realistic enough to know that both I and my dcs are only human and things don't always go to plan, I am somehow not vigilant enough to supervise my puppy properly. smile

petitdonkey Thu 29-Aug-13 12:35:35

idirdog - I know you are totally correct, it's just he often wants to play when we are in the middle of something else!! We do have lots of tuggy toys and he gets lots of attention but I guess it's like I child, they know when you aren't focused on them.

This thread has really helped give me some perspective - 'it's just a phase'!! I have just decanted some of his treats into a jar to sit by the back door (I have one by the front door to tempt him away from delivery men!) and I will go back to treat and praise rather than 'bloody dog'!!

Thank you all smile

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