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Let the chase begin

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

I confess I am amazed at the number of dog owners who resort to chasing their dog when he runs off with an item he has stolen.

Let’s think like a dog for a moment….

  • Evenings are such a bore. Everyone sits around staring at that thing on the wall.

  • How can I get them to look at me instead?

  • No one wants the ball when I drop it at their feet.

  • Barking at them only made them put me outside.

  • Hey! What have we here? The laundry basket!

  • Whoa! This soft floppy thing smells like feet. And it fits in my mouth perfectly.

  • Hey guys! Look what I have!

And the chase begins. Much to the delight of the dog, who was craving attention anyway.

  1. Wow! This thing must be really special – everyone seems to want it!

  2. And I’m way faster then they are!

  3. Secret hiding place #1 – under the bed! I’ll just scootch under here and growl at them if they come close.

Let’s face it: chasing the dog to try and get the object back is pretty fruitless. By doing so, you are actually rewarding the dog for this unwanted behavior. He wanted attention, he stole the sock, he got the attention. Stealing socks may well become his “go to” technique every evening, since it is so very effective.

dog sock
  1. Obviously, do not chase your dog. See above.

  2. Under NO circumstances should you give your dog a treat in exchange for stealing something. Think about it. Wouldn’t this be rewarding bad behavior, too?

  3. Do not beg, plead, cajole, or otherwise try to sweet talk your dog into giving back the item. Raising your voice, yelling, threatening, sounding stern or angry won’t work either.

  4. Even if you do manage to corner your dog, its never a good idea to try and take something out of a dog’s mouth if he is intent on keeping it. This is how people get bitten.

There is only one surefire way to get your dog to give up the sock.

Show no interest in it.

That’s right. The more you pay attention to your dog for stealing the sock, the more he will want to hang onto it.

So walk away.

Go into the dog’s toy basket and find a squeaky toy or two.

Within earshot of the dog, and if possible where he can see you, start playing with those toys as if they are the most interesting, fascinating, delightful toys you have every seen. Squeak them, toss them in the air, roll them along the floor.

Your dog will not be able to contain his curiosity. In moments, he will forget about the sock and come out to see what the heck you are doing. When he is obviously completely intrigued with your toy, toss it well away from the sock. While he is running after the toy, you can pick up the sock and put it in the washing machine where it belongs.

There are some additional lessons to be learned here. Commands like “leave it” and “drop” need to be taught to your dog. And don’t forget the reason why the sock was stolen in the first place. It was an attention-seeking behavior. So before you sit down to watch TV for the evening, give your dog some playtime or a food-based puzzle toy that he can play with himself. Not as a reward for stealing socks, but as a way to head your dog off at the pass. Preventing unwanted behavior is even better than trying to correct it.

Laundry basket

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