Bad Dog Behavior – Is Your Dog Stealing Food?

dog steal foodMany bad dog behaviors such as a dog stealing food, are actually dog instinctive behavior. In this series of articles, we illustrate the problems and show you how to cure unwanted dog behavior, with a special focus on dog pack instincts.

“Just what do you think you are doing?” you exclaim, trying to retrieve the meat so cleverly stolen from your plate. You have succeeded, but the meat is a bit slobbery now and distasteful for humans. The part that really makes you fume is that Max does not seem to put two and two together: (1) You are angry at him because he was a bad dog. (2) He stole your perfectly cooked, delectably smelling food!

What are the dog pack instincts in operation here? Food and mating are the ways dogs become strongest in a pack. Pack members will drive off Omega ranking ones from the kill, and higher ranks sometimes take meaty bones away from the lower ranking dogs.

Note – Driving off others and standing over the food to claim it is a much more common act than dogs taking food from one another.

For example, you may have observed a litter of puppies. Sometimes one pup will sneak in and try to drag off “the whole kill.” It is a game to him then, but he is acting out his future dominant role. The real dominant aggressive behavior of wrestling with every thing has to be acted out among the young pups as part of their development, maturation, and socialization – what makes them into a real dog. They correct each other.

Some pups may use their bodies to try to block others from the food bowl. When the pups do not get told “no” the natural way by other dogs, then they will themselves seek to tell all comers “no” when it comes to their food. This is the genesis of a lot of dog food aggression problems, including people being bitten. Just remember that pups taken away from their litter mates too young may develop aggression and biting problems, because they have not had time to learn from acting out these things in their pack life.

As they grow older, the pups will have learned the calmer behavior of taking and claiming by standing over the food. It is the calm assertive pups who will end up leading the pack, because the hot-head, dominant aggressive ones are not sufficiently stable.

Either way, though, your domestic dog has this wild dog behavior inbred to wrestle food away, or drag off the prey, or stand over the food, claiming it at least as much for pack position, assertion of authority, as for nutrition. Until taught otherwise, he WILL try to steal your food!

Solution? The easiest way I have found to deal with a dog stealing food is to give Max a single spot in which to stay, a line which he may not cross during dinner. If Max breaks the boundaries, immediately stop eating and take him back to the spot or line. The mere action of making him go back makes him understand what you expect. Then you name it, such as “stay” or “no further,” whatever you choose. The dog then connects the words with the required act.

You may have a few meals disrupted this way, but Max will catch on very quickly if you are consistent.

Remember for all dog behavior modification problem solving — Claiming your position as Pack Leader, then instructing and correcting Max with firmness and consistency will enable you to cure unwanted dog behavior, including dog instinctive behavior such as a dog stealing food.

Want to Stop Bad Dog Behaviors, Dog Instinctive Behaviors, Dog Dominance Behavior, and Dog Food Aggression? Ask Dog Obedience Trainer – Dog Behaviorist, Rena Murray. Rena shares extensive Dog Behavior Modification experience, blending the best of the Dog Whisper Behavior and other dog training techniques in self-help Articles, free email Newsletter – PAW PERSUASION POINTERS , and more on her Dog Dominance Behavior web site and in her Paw Persuasion Blog. Contact Rena at for the help you need!

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