What Have You Got In Your Mouth? Getting dogs to stop grabbing your things

It’s true that dogs and puppies alike view those things that are currently in their mouths as theirs, and only theirs.  Sure, dogs will play tug-of-war together with a rope or stick, but by and large, if they have that tasty bone or that special toy, it’s theirs until they leave it.  That’s Dog Etiquette.

Teaching our dogs that some things fall into the “Not for Dogs” category is important.  Take the TV remote for example…actually, right now, the puppy’s got it! It’s on the list of “Not for Dogs”.  Now, we could go the route of chasing the puppy around (what fun for the puppy!), cornering the puppy (not so much fun) and removing the article which now is decorated with teeth marks and saturated with dog slobber. And yes, we’ll probably have to do that but, how much better would it be if you were able to say “Give” and the puppy dropped it.

How do you relieve your dog of something in her mouth when she’s intent on keeping it?  By practicing in advance.

Dr Ian Dunbar, veterinarian, animal behaviourist and dog trainer states in an article: Practice taking away bones, toys and other objects from a dog before the inevitable incident with that essential TV remote control or your cell phone.  Offer the dog a boring toy, something not a favorite.  Once the dog has grudgingly accepted the toy, say, "Thank you," offer a tasty treat with one hand and take the toy with the other.  Once the dog has eaten the treat, give back the toy, saying "Take it."  Repeat this with more valued objects, such as balls, squeakies, and Kongs, moving up to very valued objects, bones.  When working with more highly valued objects, the attractiveness of the treats must increase accordingly, so that no matter how valuable the object the dog has in its jaws, you always have more valuable and tastier treats in your paws.  A dog must develop the confidence that giving up a valued toy or bone does not necessarily mean it's the last of it he ever sees.  On the contrary, the dog learns, "Thank you," means the owner wants to look after the dog's toy (how considerate!) while the dog eats the tasty treat (how generous!) and then, the owner wants to return the dog's toy (how honorable!)

Practice this dozens and dozens of times under different circumstances.  Have other family members practice as well.  It will ultimately serve you well when your pup has picked up that forbidden object and readily puts it down again when asked.

Happy Training!

Lynn Hyndman