A dog stealing food is never acceptable, but this habit is particularly problematic if Lucky is focusing his thievery on specific victims, such as children. Lucky may be stealing food from the kids because he sees them as an easy target, or maybe the kids have inadvertently encouraged this behavior. Whatever the cause, planning, discipline and kindness are all you need to put an end to the problem.
Hunger can send a dog’s scavenging instincts into overdrive, so make sure Lucky is getting the correct amount of food every day. The correct amount depends on his age, size and breed, but as a rough guide, two portions of food a day should be adequate. In addition to stealing food, an insufficiently fed dog will display lethargy and a dull coat.
Dogs are opportunistic feeders, and even a well-fed dog will steal food if the opportunity presents itself. Children often provide the greatest temptation to steal food. Their hands are often close to the height of Lucky’s nose, so if a child is walking around with a candy bar, Lucky may see it as an opportunity to eat.
Your kids may have inadvertently started Lucky on the path to food theft. If they’ve secretly given Lucky a bit of food from their own plate, Lucky may now think that the kids are a legitimate source of food, which encourages him to steal. If they don't hand him the food, he’ll quite happily snatch it from their plate or hands. For this reason it’s essential nobody ever give Lucky food when the family is eating at the table. If Lucky is going to get table scraps, put them in his bowl after the family has finished eating.
Aside from the cost implications of replacing stolen food and the distress caused to the child, there are also more serious risks. Lucky may tip over a plate of hot food onto a child when stealing, or he may accidentally nip a hand when grabbing at a sandwich. Another risk is that one day, Lucky may steal something that is bad for him, such as chocolate.
The first step to preventing Lucky from stealing food from the kids is to limit his access to their food. Put him in a separate room when children are eating, so he can’t get near their plates. If your kids have a snack, make sure Lucky is either on a leash or out of the room.
It’s not always convenient to banish Lucky when food is around, so training him to understand he can’t steal food provides a longer term solution. Give the kids a bit of food to hold in their hand. Leash the little food grabber and walk him toward one of the kids. If he goes to steal the food, gently tug the leash and say “no.” If he doesn’t go for the food, give him a treat from your pocket. With sufficient repetition, he’ll learn that trying to steal food has a negative outcome and resisting the urge has a positive outcome.
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