Dogs taking the kids’ toys have always been an issue between young, active dogs and their young, active family members. However, it is a problem that can be solved easily, before it might escalate into a nip or a jump.
The family room tends to be the most common room place for the “crime” to take place, because that is where the kids tend to leave their toys lying around. In addition, that is where the dog’s toy basket is located. Between the kids’ toys strewn across the floor and the overflowing basket of dog toys, it is no wonder your young dog is confused as to which toys are his.
We forget that dogs see objects and interpret rules in a simple, straight forward manner. Your child’s toy (a doll) and your dog’s toy (a stuffed animal) aren’t that different in your dog’s eyes. When your child is on the floor playing she is on your dog’s level. This is a natural body language signal in your dog’s world that means playtime. When your child’s toy is sitting next to her, your dog picks up the toy, initiating play. Your child then gets excited and begins to chase your dog to get the toy back. Now your dog is in a fun game.
So now the task is to teach your dog that your child’s toys are off limits. This is done by creating situations that clearly differentiate the toys.
- Remove the dog toy basket from the family room and place them near his bed or crate. The toys will no longer be intermingled and will allow you to create simpler rules.
- When your child is not playing with her toys, pick the toys up or keep them confined to a particular area (i.e. a toy box or corner of the family room). This will help create an “off limit zone”.
- Put a leash on your dog. Just let him walk around, dragging it behind him. As soon as he starts to make a move towards one of your child’s toys, take the leash and guide him away.
- Set some “land mines”. Using some of your child’s less frequently unused toys, put Bitter Apple on them. Set them just outside the area where your child plays. Let your dog walk up to the toys and sniff. The bitter smell should make him uninterested in the toys. This will help to build up an association of a “no go zone”.
- Always give your dog good choices. When you move your dog away from your child’s toys, give him one of his toys or a chew toy. Guide him to another part of the room where he can enjoy it. This continues the teaching process, allowing him to realize that his stuff is better than hers.
- Never play with your dog in an adrenalized state near your child’s toys.The heightened excitement extends the possibility that your dog is just going to pick up one of your child’s toys and run off.
- Try to keep food out of your child’s play area. The food smell and dropped crumbs heighten your dog’s food drive which could encourage the taking of her toys.
- Play with your dog and his toys in another room or outside. Never play with your dog near your child’s toys. This helps establish areas of specific and acceptable actions.
It is all about giving your dog the right choices and teaching him to understand those choices.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery county and northern Chester County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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