Lets face it – we have all been there. Countless and countless of times.
Stealing socks is one of Zeus’s favourite past time activities – and has been since he was a puppy. But when he is thieving is he doing so because socks are the best thing in the world or could there be another reason for it?
Think about every time that your pooch steals socks – or anything else for that matter- is there anything unique about those situations?
Here is the thing: most of our dogs have outsmarted us. It is not the sock per say which is the prize – but it is our attention.
Thieving used to be the most effective way for Zeus to get all of my undivided attention regardless of what I was doing – until I stopped giving him what he wanted.
This is probably one of the easiest behaviours to modify if you are also following through with basic obedience training & sufficient exercise routines. I am very proud to say that it has been a very long time since Zeus has stolen anything.
Here is our easy guide to stop your little furry thief:
- When your pooch steals a sock; walk into another room. Do not even look at the rascal. Your dog wants you to chase after him; he wants to create a scene because it is amusing and entertaining for him. Do not entertain him. Your dog will most likely parade the sock around in-front of you – this is all part of the game. If he comes towards you – get up and walk away. Do not speak to him and do not engage him in any way.
- Stealing socks and destructive behaviour are two different things. Thieving is usually for attention; destruction usually means a severe lack of physical and mental stimulation. If every time you come home from work your dog has gone to town on your apartment and your belongings – you will seriously need to re-plan your exercise routines. Regardless of how much training a dog has received, pent up energy always leads to negative behaviour. Pent up energy can also be a reason for thieving – your dog is bored and with excess energy so he will entertain himself by stealing things. Make sure your dog has appropriate toys and bones as a source of entertainment rather than socks; Zeus & I are obsessed with stuffed, frozen Kongs . In my opinion they are also the only safe chew toy/bone that you can leave your dog with unsupervised.
- Do you have a strong ‘Drop it’ & ‘Leave it’ game? If you do not, I would strongly recommend that you start today. This will also play an important part in ensuring that your dog does not create a resource guarding issue. The key here is to REWARD REWARD REWARD. You do not want your dog to start believing that you are always just taking things away without giving anything back. You want your dog to WANT to give you things and share things with you because this will lead to something positive – like a treat.
As fun as thieving can be for your dog, there is nothing as fun as your attention and being rewarded for good behaviour. Remember that for your dog – pleasing you is the greatest treat. Turn ‘dropping objects’ into a rewarding and FUN experience for your dog; do not yell or aggressively try to remove the object from your dog. This can lead to possessiveness and object guarding issues to develop or to become worse.
For most dogs, thieving is an issue that can be resolved relatively quickly by ignoring and not engaging. If however you are witnessing resource guarding issues or extreme destructive behaviour ; you should evaluate various other factors such as sufficient physical/mental stimulation and adequate obedience training.
Remember that obedience training is a fantastic release of energy and your dog will absolutely love it – and be tired after 😉
PS. Although this might be cheating; I can guarantee you that it works every time. If your dog has a dangerous object in his mouth and ‘drop it’ is not yet reliable : walk into your kitchen and open the fridge door/pack of treats/ etc. There has never not been a time in which Zeus has not immediately dropped whatever he was chewing. Remember though to give your dog the treat for dropping the object; otherwise your dog will feel frustration and possessiveness can kick in!
A tired dog is a good dog !
Happy sock hunting y’all – or shall we say the lack of it !
Zeus & Anna 💜