Dogs are scavengers by nature, according to The Guild of Dog Trainers. In the wild they're also opportunistic animals—they'll take any food they can get, whenever they can get it. While Rover might be well fed at home and not lacking for treats, his instinct might still be to grab whatever's around when you're looking the other way. Breaking the habit can be tricky, but it's not impossible.
Keep tempting things off the counter. If you have a short dog, you're in luck—just pushing things away from the edge of the counter and toward the backsplash might be enough. Big dogs might require a bit more effort, such as hiding stuff in containers or inside the cupboards. Even better, don't leave anything with a yummy smell sitting on the counter for more than just a couple of minutes, especially when you're still training Rover in kitchen manners.
Stop any habits that might encourage food stealing. For example, don't feed Rover at the table, no matter how much he begs. If you're going to leave something yummy on the counter or the kitchen table, don't leave chairs or other pieces of furniture sitting too close that he could use to get a lift and reach for the food. Sure, ideally you want him to leave the food alone of his own volition, but while he's still in training, don't make it easy for him to steal—he'll get into a habit that's hard to break.
Teach Rover to "leave it." Not only food, but anything. In fact, it might be easier to start the "leave it" training with something less tempting than yummy food. Once he's learned you're in charge and you decide when and what he can take and keep, you won't have to worry about him stealing food—or at least you'll be able to tell him to drop it if you see him taking something from the kitchen.
Trick Rover into eating something that tastes yucky—even though it looks great. For example, dab some hot sauce on a small piece of meat or pie, or spray it with bitter apple or some other deterrent spray from the pet store. Then place it near the edge of the counter, where Rover can easily get to it. He'll soon learn that food stolen from the counter tastes horrible. You can also booby-trap the counter by placing something yummy on a metal tray or placing some cans around the food. The chaos caused when he tries to get to the food might dissuade him from trying again.
- Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images