Help! My dog steals toys!
(Q) My dog is obsessed with balls and steals others’ in the park — what can I do?
(A) Behaviourist Claire Arrowsmith says: This can be a very difficult problem which many owners experience while walking in busy parks in the summer. You need to spend time working with your dog to teach him to focus on you and the toys you bring on walks to play with, rather than trying to chase those belonging to other people.
Initially this will mean spending some time at home focusing his attention on your chosen toy and praising him well. Keep him on a training line while walking so that he is unable to practise the habit of rushing away. Begin far from distractions and play an exciting game with him.
He needs to learn that focusing on you brings fun and games, while focusing on other people is pointless (because the line prevents him from running away to have fun). You will need to practise a lot so that your dog learns to respond reliably to your call with and without distractions.