One of the most common attention-getting behaviors is stealing. Bored and ignored dogs will grab something to start a chase game. It works especially well if the object he steals is worth over $100. Dogs love chase games and often play these games with other dogs. Wolves do this, too.
If your dog grabs something, you need to do the opposite of what he wants. Do not chase him! Do not try to tell him to drop it or tell him he is a bad dog. That's attention. Do not take even one step toward him or look at him. Silently walk away from him, get a treat in the kitchen, and make a trade. If you chase him or yell at him, you will be rewarding the behavior with attention, even if it is negative attention. Making a trade for a treat (use the lowest-power treat necessary) is less rewarding than the chase game. I know this seems like rewarding your dog for stealing, but it is the least rewarding thing that you can do to get back what he grabbed. Making a trade will avoid making your dog feel defensive and protective about an object he has stolen. In addition, this is a safe way for kids to get things away from dogs.
Your dog is going to keep trying to pick up your things unless he gets more attention for picking up his toys. Everyone's tendency when their dogs start to play with their own toys is to breathe a sigh of relief, try to get something else done, and ignore their dogs. You should do the opposite. When your dog picks up his toys, chase him around the dining room table and through the house. This way he is more likely to grab the squeaky dinosaur rather than the TV remote.
I must confess that my Irish Setter does on occasion grab a glove or a sock. She heads for the dog biscuit jar, sits, and waits for me to make a trade. I usually comply, even though she responds to a "drop it" command. I think it's kind of cute, and I'm happy she never destroys anything. If your dog is guarding an object and threatening you, do not confront him. Punishment will make your dog more defensive and more likely to bite the next time. Do what I describe above: make a trade. At first, you may have to use very powerful treats, especially if your dog has a history of being afraid of being punished. If he only guards certain objects, like rawhide bones, stop giving them to him. You should also read the section on "Dominance Aggression" in chapter 9 on aggression. You should also seek the help of a professional.
Teach your dog the "leave it" command as described in chapter 5 and use this command before your dog steals something. Don't forget to reward him for this.
Practice teaching "drop it" with objects your dog is likely to easily give up. Use treats. Sometimes ask your dog to drop something, pick it up, and then immediately give it back to him. If your dog likes to retrieve, use two balls to teach "drop it." Throw one ball, and then encourage him to come back by waving the second ball. When he gets back, tell him to "drop it," and don't throw the second ball until he does.
Of course, some dogs steal food off counters just because they'd like a snack. The best solution for this is not to leave food on counters! This is what microwaves are for: storing countertop food. The vinegar and water spray bottle sprayed at the second a dog sniffs the counter, before he even jumps up, works well. The best time to teach this is when puppies are young and impressionable, about 12 weeks old. You can find alarms in Radio Shack or dog supply catalogs that sense motion that can alert you to a sneaky dog.
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