Dogs - The opportunistic thief

Dogs – The opportunistic thief

November 6, 2020

Ok, I was going to call this post “My Dog Ran Off With The Turkey,” but that sounded like the dog and turkey eloped. No, what I’m talking about is theft. During this busy holiday season, many dogs will be stealing food.

Food will disappear from counters, tables, plates, and yes, right out of your hand. Dogs are are proficient thieves because that skill is necessary for survival in the wild.

With the holidays just around the corner, this is the perfect time to amp up your game of teaching your dog not to surf the counters and table and not steal food.


Start planning out some prevention strategies for when food is out, and you are too busy to make sure your dog will not be able to steal food.

  1.  Exercise your dog and then put it in a crate with something wonderful to chew on until you put all food away.
  2. Use baby gates to block off the kitchen, dining room, or other rooms where food will be out.
  3. Tether your dog to you, so you know what your dog is doing?
  4. Keeping the counter clean of food and dirty dishes

Training Solutions For Dogs That Counter Surf

Game #1. – Each time your dog is out of the house, secretly place goodies along the kickboard or baseboard for your dog to find. If your dog finds good stuff on the ground that is easy to reach, it doesn’t have a reason to put its feet on the counter or table.

Game #2 – Teach your dog to lye on a mat when in the kitchen or by the table.

Game #3 – Teach your dog; the kitchen is off-limits. This one is only applicable if your dog does not need to go through the kitchen to get outside or another part of the house.

So I have a question for you.  Does your dog steal food?  Tell me about it in the comments section.  Tell me about the steps you plan to take to make it so your holiday treats don’t get stolen.


Sally Marie on November 8, 2020, at 7:00 am
My Vizsla will eat food off the coffee table, after all it’s right at his height, so he is not given such opportunities any more. If I leave my coffee cup on the floor while moving furniture he will drink it, all gone. When people are done eating dinner he may come over and sniff at empty plates and even search the plate with his tongue if no one is paying attention. But only once has he tried to get a steak off the kitchen counter and that was three years ago. The only other times I’ve seen his paws on a table or counter since then has been “just” to retrieve his own possession, a tennis ball that someone had put up off the floor for one reason or another.

Debbie Schaefer on November 8, 2020, at 7:21 am
Yes, it is right there so in their mind it is fair game. It sounds like you have some prevention in place and because you have not had any successful attempts to steal food in 3 years, what you are doing is working and you probably don’t need to put in any additional measures unless you want to reduce your prevention.

Vicki R. Brabham on November 9, 2020, at 9:29 am
Dahli knows when there is a plate, napkin, fork, …anything that has touched delicious human food recently, and she will climb up and over and onto anything to get there, even if it puts her in peril of falling off an arm of a couch or an end table. Knowing this about her, we just have to put away dishes from our meal immediately, even if what we would rather do is sink deeper into the couch and watch a good TV show. I’ve also learned that outside, around the BBQ is her go-to spot after I’ve used the grill (for at least 2-3 days), and it is a distraction to her when she should be outside going potty. Even at 3 in the morning, which is quite annoying. I’ve learned to be very careful about what I throw away in the outside garbage because she will get into it if I turn my back.

Debbie Schaefer on November 9, 2020, at 10:44 am
Interesting, I would have never guessed that about her. The good news is, this food motivation can be used to your advantage in absolutely anything you want to teach her. It sounds like you have your prevention in place. So the next step, should you want more is to teach her to:
1. come away from food distractions
2. games that teach impulse control
3. alternative behaviors that she can use to get rewards.

Hannah White on November 10, 2020, at 6:03 pm (Edit)
Our dogs just really love to beg for food. They don’t normally gain enough confidence to actually steal the food, but they do jump up on the couch when we’re eating and try to lick our plates. They also love different fruits and veggies that we give them as treats, but they have very much come to expect them whenever they hear us chopping anything up on the cutting board! It’s usually pretty cute, but they’ve really come to expect it. Is this ok?
We’ve also recently started using a gate in the doorway to our kitchen. It’s such a small galley kitchen that it’s really frustrating when our dogs try to be in there with us! That has worked pretty well. They only whined the first couple days.

Debbie Schaefer on November 10, 2020, at 9:45 pm
You get to determine what is ok and what is not. Sometimes, the question we need to ask ourselves is, “Is this going to lead to a behavior I don’t want in the future?” If the answer is yes, then discourage it from the start.
The gate in the kitchen doorway is an excellent prevention strategy.


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Author – Debbie Schaefer

Debbie has been successfully teaching dog lovers how to rambunctious, rude, disobedient dogs into Well-Mannered companions since 1987.

That means there are few bad behaviors Debbie can’t tame or troublesome pups Debbie can’t help turn into well-mannered dogs.

With training, your dog can be a great companion, a fun part of your life.