How to Stop a Dog From Stealing Items & Running

"I double-dog dare you to take it."

"I double-dog dare you to take it."

Certain canines have a penchant for taking things that aren't theirs the moment the opportunity presents itself. Trying to take it back probably sends Rusty running away like an Olympic sprinter. A couple of commands along with a game of fetch can make it easier to retrieve your stolen items.

Hide a few treats in a pouch or in your pocket so that your pup can't tell where they are.

Sit on your couch and toss one of your pup's favorite toys so he has to retrieve it. The moment he returns with it, say, "Drop." Say it only once and don't make any movements to take the toy from him. He's probably going to stare at you, as if to say you're a crazy person. But within 10 to 15 seconds, he should drop the toy on the floor or on you. He's trying to bait you into taking it so you'll show interest, but that doesn't matter. The important thing is he dropped it, so immediately reward him with a tasty treat.

Grab the toy and use your hand or arm to block your pup from taking it. Say, "Leave it." He'll eventually pull away and might snort, sigh or sit in frustration of not being able to grab it. The second he does, tell him he's a good boy and hand him a treat. Pick up the toy, chuck it across the room and start all over again. The point of the “leave it” command is to stop those sharp teeth from latching right back onto your shoes, shirts or whatever else he steals once he drops them on command. Keep repeating the two commands 10 to 20 times a day until he's dropping his toy and leaving it the moment you say the command.

Say the "Drop" command the second your thieving pup steals something, and then follow that with the "leave it" command. Your behavior will determine what happens next. Remain calm and don't run at your pup or make quick movements. Make fast, jerky movements and you're going to find yourself as Wile E. Coyote chasing the Roadrunner. Pick up the stolen item and don't say a word about it to your pup. Sure, he took it without asking, but he obeyed the two commands. If you notice him lean in toward the item as you approach it, give a sharp, "Ah" to back him off.

Make it difficult for him to steal things. Dogs who enjoy the life of household crime usually have a list of preferred items they enjoy stealing. Your pal might not care about couch pillows but finding a shoe is like hitting three 7s in Vegas. Try to keep those items away from his reach. Hiding shoes in crates and never leaving clothes out in the open are sensible options. You can also opt to deter him by applying a bitter spray to items, although that's probably not the best idea for things you might catch a whiff of, like pillows.

Items you will need

  • Toys
  • Treats
  • Leash (optional)


  • You can use the "Drop" and "Leave it" commands for other situations too, such as getting your pup to drop a rock or leave a pile of mulch alone.
  • If the "Drop it" method doesn't work for you, try lowering a treat in front of your pup's face when he brings you the toy. He should release the toy in anticipation for the treat. If he attempts to run off with the toy, leash him up and keep the leash in your hand or step on it to prevent him from scurrying away.
  • Giving your pup plenty of exercise each day in the form of walks, free runs, fetch and so forth can stop bad behaviors like thievery.


  • Avoid chasing your pup for a toy or for anything he steals. He thinks it's a game if you start chasing him.
  • Do not berate your pup or hit him. Negative reinforcement, especially in this situation, solves nothing.

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About the Author

Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.

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