How to Make a Dog Stop Stealing Food

Leaving food out in clear sight can trigger counter-surfing.
i Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Accept it; your dog is a scavenger by nature. When he nabs an unattended sandwich and eats it, he's basically rewarding himself for stealing. This makes his behavior challenging to break. To stop his food-stealing fetish, don't give him access to food and use obedience training to control his behavior.

Step 1

Block your dog's access to areas with food -- if he can't get it, he can't steal it. Set up baby gates to keep him out of the kitchen and dining room. Put away leftovers and keep counters free of food items that might tempt your dog to counter-surf. Put child-safety locks on cabinets and use a trash can with a lid your pet companion can't open. Alternatively, give your furry friend a food-stuffed dog toy and confine him in a dog crate when you prepare food in the kitchen or when you have a dinner party.

Step 2

Clap your hands or shake a can of coins and say "off" when you catch your dog counter-surfing or raiding the trash can. The loud noise will startle your dog and stop him in his tracks. Take him by his collar and guide him away from the food he's trying to nab.

Step 3

Booby-trap food items to teach your pet companion that stealing food is a no-no. Tie one end of a piece of dental floss to a yummy piece of meat and attach the other end to an empty soda can that's partially filled with pennies. Seal the can with a piece of sticky tape and place it on a counter so the meat is hanging in clear sight. When your dog goes to steal the meat, the can will fall and the noise will startle your dog, making him think twice about stealing food again.

Step 4

Feed your dog before throwing a dinner party. If his tummy is full, he's less likely to go looking for opportunities to steal food.

Step 5

Give your dog daily workouts to prevent boredom and to burn energy that he might otherwise use to go scavenging. Take your dog for walks or bring him along when you go jogging. Play games with him, such as fetch and tug-of-war. Provide chew toys and food-stuffed dog toys for his entertainment, and set up play dates with dog-owning friends.

Step 6

Prioritize obedience training so your furry friend can learn commands, such as "leave it," "sit" and "stay." The "leave it" command can prevent food-stealing -- use it each time you see your dog eyeing food items. The "sit" and "stay" commands can be used to train your dog to stay in a certain area while you prepare food. Regardless which commands you use, always reward good behavior with praise and dog treats to reinforce it.

the nest