Dog plays keep-away

Posted by Mike
May 22, 2008
Our 4 month old lab will sit, down, and stay. She doesn't run off when she's off the leash, but she doesn't always respond to "Come." In fetch, she goes and gets the ball, and usually brings it close before she lies down to chew on it. I have to take a couple of steps to take it from her. Usually she lets me, but sometimes she bounces off with it, inviting me to give chase.

The problem, besides being unable to close the fetch cycle, is that she has a habit of grabbing anything she can reach (which is a lot) and running around the house with it. If my wife is home alone, she has to give her a treat to recover the stolen item. Otherwise, two of us will corner her and take the item from her. This will happen multiple times in the evening. Ignore her, and she will lie down to chew on the item, which is sometimes valuable. (She's big enough to reach onto the counters, kitchen table, and so on. The squirt gun and growl and repeated off-commands don't have much effect.)

Any suggestions?
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
May 23, 2008
Hi there!

Your 4mos old puppy must be really cute and I can tell she is playful.

I think you and your wife have reinforced inadvertently your puppy's unfavorable behavior of taking something and run away with it. I bet she thinks it is a fun game By grabbing a thing that doesn't belong to her, she can have a fun chase with you and your wife and even get rewarded with treats!!

What you need to do is to train her "Take it" "Drop it" and "Leave it". This is how it works. Make your puppy sit in front of you. You will place a toy on the floor right in front of her. Tell her "Take it". You can even pick it up and bring it to her mouth. If she takes it, praise and give her a treat. Now, when she has a toy in her mouth, tell her "Drop it" and give her a treat as she drops it, or as you take it out of her mouth by offering a treat. You will repeat this for 10 times every day until your puppy masters "Take it" and "Drop it". You can also add "Leave it" before "Take it" by the same method.

Now your dog has learned "Leave it", "Take it" and "Drop it". Next time she is about to get to something that doesn't belong to her, say "Leave it". When she has got something in her mouth, tell her to "Drop it". Now you are able to control your dog's behaviors. You will have to praise and give a treat every time she does "Leave it" and "Drop it" correctly at this stage. Later on, you can reduce frequency of treats while still praising her.

Until she masters those commands, I would put valuable objects out of her reach as much as possible. In case she gets something in her mouth before you noticed, don't chase her. Just go to her with a serious look on your face and take the thing out of mouth as calmly as possible. You should be able to take things out of her mouth if you have established your position as the leader. It is easier when the dog is still young to practice this. In fact it will be a good exercise to get her used to you taking things out of her mouth. Once she learns "Drop it" and "Leave it" you won't even need to take things away from her mouth since she will let them go.

Good luck