Scavenger Behavior in Puppies

Teaching a puppy not to scavenge before he grows up can avoid some undesirable habits as an adult dog.

Teaching a puppy not to scavenge before he grows up can avoid some undesirable habits as an adult dog.

The saying that you can't leave a dog to watch your sandwich attests to the fact that our canine friends are scavengers who will gobble up anything their mouths can find. Since puppies are dogs in training, it stands to reason that their immature nature will exhibit the same behavior.

Man's Best Vacuum Cleaner

Before dogs earned the status of "man's best friend" being fed by his master, a canine was forced to search, hunt or scavenge for his daily food. Centuries later, the instinct remains strong. According to Pet Finder, today's dogs possess eating habits they have inherited from their ancestors, who could not rely on regular meals so they evolved with an ability to eat large quantities of food when it was available. Time is a powerful force, but not strong enough to remove all tendencies.

Rule Out Medical Problems

A first step in dealing with a dog that won't stop gobbling down any piece of food he can snatch is to determine if there is a medical problem. Joe the Vet suggests evaluating your canine friend for a hypothyroid or malabsorption condition that could inadvertently be leaving the dog feeling constantly hungry.

Psychologically Rewarding

Just like a child that figures out getting into trouble gets your attention, your dog has similar reasons for snagging treats off the counter and dining room table. According to the Dog Obedience Training Review, it could be a tactic to get your attention. It is self-rewarding in that the naughty behavior still ends up getting the dog something he wants. The DOTR says it's a bit of a catch-22 -- you have to respond to the dog's behavior, but the dog may only understand that he got both a treat and your attention.

Making It Stop

It's easier said than done, but according to Pet Finder, it is possible to teach your canine friend to "leave it" when he encounters temptation to scavenge. It begins by holding a treat in clenched fist, not allowing the dog to scarf it down. You tell the dog "leave it" and do not give the treat. When the dog has obeyed you by not trying to get the treat from you, reward the lack of engagement in scavenger behavior by giving him the treat. It might, at first glance, seem counterproductive to keeping the dog from eating something by actually giving him something to eat. However, after several successful rounds, the dog learns to obey your command of "leave it" and this becomes another tool in your arsenal of preventing him from grabbing accidentally dropped food off the floor or jumping up to snag unattended food from the kitchen counter.

Eating Poop

Perhaps one of the ickiest things puppies do on their journey toward becoming full-grown dogs is eating their own feces. It's almost a rite of passage that often continues into adulthood. According to Vet Info, some puppies eat their own poop simply because they are bored. According to Joe the Vet, the penchant toward their own bowel movements could be an indicator of improper nutrition. If all the nutrients are not properly absorbed in the digestive system but instead end up in the pup's elimination, the scent of the lingering carbohydrate and protein is easily picked up by a dog's keen sense of smell. It's only natural to chomp down what smells like a tasty meal.

 

About the Author

Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.

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