How to Train Your Dog to Not Eat Everything

Hard
1-6 Months
Behavior

Introduction

If your dog's favorite menu consists of just about anything he can get in his mouth, you might have a problem. Most of us really don't need to have half-eaten birds, sneakers, or any other type of trash laying all over the yard, not to mention the fact the other half is somewhere in your pup's digestive system. More importantly, swallowing anything that is not intended to be food can be very hazardous to your furry friend's health.

The good news is that you can teach your dog not to eat everything. There are ways to train him not to scavenge and other methods, such as using a muzzle.  Many dog owners feel that using a muzzle is mean or could lead to others thinking their dog is aggressive. However, if you buy a muzzle that fits properly, your dog won't be uncomfortable, and it could save his life. 

Defining Tasks

One very important thing to note is that as with any type of training, teaching your dog not to eat everything is going to take time. This is even more the case when you are trying to teach your dog to 'come away' from something he believes might be the tastiest treat he has ever seen. The challenge with teaching him to come away from his perceived treat is to teach him that he wants to leave this treat in order to get a better one. 

Getting Started

If this sounds confusing, it really isn't that bad. It simply means you must be prepared to offer your pup something of equal or greater value, such as his favorite puppy treat. While it is quite natural for a dog to move towards the item he wants, it is just as natural for him to come to you when called, especially if you have a treat. The following training methods make full use of this concept and should help you to train your dog not to eat everything he comes across. 

The Going for Walks Method

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Step
1
Go outside and play
Take a ball or one of your pup's favorite toys along with you and play fetch. This will keep his mind focused on the game and not on finding garbage to eat.
Step
2
Teach tricks
Teach him tricks he can perform along the way, such as jumping or how to walk to heel along your left or right side.
Step
3
Change routes
Change routes regularly as the change will give him something new to smell.
Step
4
Take something to play with
When you go to the dog park, be sure to take a ball or frisbee to play with you.
Step
5
Talk to your dog
Talk to your dog as you are walking, this will help keep his interest and let him know you are still there
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The Start Inside Method

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Step
1
Place a treat
Start by placing a treat on the counter or trash can or whatever your dog likes to get into.
Step
2
'Leave it'
Take your dog over to the food and leave him standing there after telling him to "leave it."
Step
3
Walk away
Walk a few steps away and call your dog.
Step
4
If he walks away
If he walks away from the food and comes to you, take him over to the food and give it to him along with plenty of praise.
Step
5
If he grabs
If he grabs the treat instead of coming to you, repeat the process until he follows your instructions. Patience is a virtue with this type of training, but perseverance will eventually win out and your pup will 'come away' from perceived foods each time you recall him.
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The Moving Outdoors Method

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Step
1
Place a few treats
Start by placing a number of his favorite treats in different locations around your backyard and mark their spots so you can see when your dog is getting close to them.
Step
2
On the long lead
Hook your pup to a long lead and let him start roaming around the yard
Step
3
Hold him back
As soon as he indicates he has smelled a treat and reaches a point where you think he is close enough, keep him from proceeding.
Step
4
Call him back
Don't pull him back, call him back and let him make up his own mind to obey.
Step
5
Treats for success
When he does, make sure you give him a treat and plenty of praise. The importance of teaching him to make the right decisions cannot be stressed enough. If you can't get him to make the right decision when he is on the lead, how do you think he will ever do it once he is off the lead?
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
CAPTAIN
Golden Retriever
3 Months
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Question
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CAPTAIN
Golden Retriever
3 Months

He grabs and eats everything. Today he grabbed everything from dustbinand was growling when we try to Take things

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello Anwita, First, check out this article. I recommend teaching Drop It from this article. When you teach it, always trade pup with something like a treat or other toy, to also build trust right now. Second, I also recommend teaching Leave it from this article, and checking out this article in general for some tips on dealing with the chewing. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ Third, I would keep a drag leash on pup right now when pup is free and supervised (to ensure it won't get caught on anything don't have pup wear one at night and when not home). This helps you calmly step on the leash then reel pup in to you when pup has something they shouldn't, without the intimidation or excitement of having to chase pup down and grab their collar. Right now pup probably anticipates whatever they get being immediately taken away through an intense process of having to chase pup and quickly grab - which is increasing defensiveness and thus aggressiveness. Instead, work on building a habit of pup being willing to give you things and leave things alone through proactively practicing Leave It and Drop It with rewards during calm periods. I would practice those commands for 10-15 minutes at least a couple of times every day right now. You can also keep a treat pouch or little bowl of treat out of pup's reach and just randomly practice telling pup to Drop It or Leave It, then give pup a treat when they do, then let them pick up the item they previously had again after (if it's something they can have like their toy). This helps pup see that sometimes you are taking something just to give them a treat and not because it's gone for good. Additionally, I would work on getting puppy used to touch and handling. Use puppy's daily meal kibble to do this. Gently touch an area of puppy's body while feeding a piece of food. Touch an ear and give a treat. Touch a paw and give a treat. Hold his collar and give a treat. Touch his tail gently and give a treat. Touch his belly, his other paws, his chest, shoulder, muzzle and every other area very gently and give a treat each time. Keep these times calm and fun for pup. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Blue
Pomeranian husky
2 Years
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Question
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Blue
Pomeranian husky
2 Years

Blue has been taking items at night and eating them. We already have to kennel him in the day as he digs. When we get home he often plays for a few minutes but then wants to lay down and relax. However at night he gets his way into things. Most recently stealing my wallet off the table. I am at my wits end with him eating everything he wants and need help with getting him to stop the destructive behavior. Please any help in having him stop eating random house items would be great! His list is as follows (but not everything):

Solar guiding lights
sprinkler systems
wallets
shoes
pens
clothes

Thank you for your help!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, when you are home, I recommend practicing the commands from this article, especially Leave It. Work up to practice with the items pup tends to chew, with pup never being given that item, but another treat instead when they obey leave it. Chewing article: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ The practice for chewing needs to happen primarily during the day, unless you are willing to stay up at night. If pup is going back to the same item over and over again, you can teach pup Leave It, practice Leave It with that item often during the day so pup learns that it's off limits, spy on pup with a camera at night or when they think they are alone during the day, then use a remote training collar to interrupt pup whenever they try to touch that item. I would choose a collar with a wide variety of vibration and stimulation levels and try the lowest level of vibration first. This protocol only works if there is a particular item pup is going to over and over. If pup is just generally destructive, pup needs to be confined to a dog proofed area like a crate or gated off hallway, with some acceptable chew toys he can't swallow pieces from, at night when you aren't there to interrupt their chewing, and then the training from the article I have linked needs to be practiced proactively during the day, to ultimately help pup make forward progress. If pup is not supervised or confined at night, and allowed to chew regularly, that will actually ingrain the chewing habit worse, preventing any of the daytime work from progressing, and making the chewing habit ultimately harder to break. I generally recommend giving pup freedom starting with just 10 minutes alone during the day when pup is no longer chewing day or night with you there for at least 3 months. If pup does well with that, then you gradually increase it each time you practice leaving without pup (crating when you leave for the full amount of time in the meantime). Often going on short walks without pup is a good way to test this. Once pup has gradually worked up to three hours without chewing anything during the day, then you can test whether pup is ready for more freedom at night again. If pup chews anything during these tests, pup isn't ready yet, and needs to wait at least one more month before testing pup being left out alone again. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
luna
Catahoula Cur
10 Months
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Question
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luna
Catahoula Cur
10 Months

Luna is a rescue who had a sad beginning. We estimate she is 10 months old. She eats everything she can find. Not only does he chew toys, her bed, but eats them also. Outside she eats mulch, prunes our bushes and worse of all, rocks. When you catch her doing these things and ask her to drop it she runs away. We start puppy class this week. she hadn't had all her shots, so she is now ready. Hope you have good advice. She has only been with us for two months.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello Carole, Right now I recommend tethering pup to yourself when she is free, and crating pup when you cannot supervise her. Check out the article I have linked below and work on teaching Out and Leave It, calmly using those commands with her whenever she tries to eat something while with her. Also, pay attention to the section of the article about dog food stuffed chew toys. I would feed her the majority of her food in toys like kongs right now to give her somewhere appropriate to focus her anxiety. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ I would also speak to your vet about her nutritional and medical status. Pica - which is related to eating strange things can be a medical disorder related to something like a nutritional deficiency (nutrients being absorbed not just calories) or parasites. I am not a vet though so refer to your vet. At some point you may need to pursue low level e-collar training for the eating behavior, in combination with teaching alternative suitable behaviors that she can enjoy, like the chew toys or mentally stimulating games, but I would first look into this with your vet, work on the chew toys and leave it type commands, and see how she does with that. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Nubia
German Shepherd mixed with Saluki
5 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Nubia
German Shepherd mixed with Saluki
5 Months

I have gotten Nubia from the shelter a few months ago at the age of 2 months. She is now 5 months old pushing 6. There are a few concerns I have. One, she seems to want to eat anything on the floor within her reach or at least keep in her mouth. Two, she sometimes refuses to potty outside. Three, she gets so much excitement seeing anyone and ends up jumping on them although its not that bad

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mubin, For the eating, check out the articles I have linked below, paying special attention to the Leave It method. Chewing: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite For the pottying outside, check out this article. The times won't apply as much to her at this age, but there are several tips with details on teaching Go Potty command, using treat rewards to motivate, walking pup around slowly on leash to keep her better focused and stimulate the urge to go with the movement, and even using a potty encouraging spray to encourage pooping if needed. If pup is crate trained and you are struggling with accidents after pup doesn't go potty, check out how to use a crate between potty trips to ensure pup doesn't have an accident inside before you take them back outside again to try again. At your dog's age I would try again after an hour in the crate if pup doesn't go when you first take them out. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside For the jumping, check out this article. Jumping is often an attention seeking behavior and pup is likely being friendly, which you don't want to discourage overall - just stop the jumping, so its important to also reward for a polite greeting like Sitting to give pup a polite way to still be friendly. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Lily
half German Shepherd half terrier
1 Year
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Question
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Lily
half German Shepherd half terrier
1 Year

We want to train her to not eat everything she finds like shoes and toys around the house

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, this is an important habit to break. The chance of an obstruction due to possibly swallowing something Lily cannot pass through her system is a risk. I would be sure to "puppy-proof" the house, putting away all shoes, children's toys, and clothing. Buy a toy box so clean up is easy and throw shoes in the closet daily until the habit is broken. She will grow out of it! Provide her with dog appropriate toys like textured toys that feel good on the teeth and gums. The kong is an excellent choice and can be made attractive by placing a few small dog biscuits or a bit of kibble inside as a challenge to get out. Buy her puzzle toys and feeder toys. Feed her part of her breakfast in the bowl and the other portion in the feeder toy. This will stimulate her mentally and give her a chance to play at the same time. When she goes for a shoe or child's toy, always have a dog toy replacement ready to trade. Make sure that Lily is getting lots of outdoor time in the form of walks and playtime at the park. She'll have less energy for chewing on forbidden items. You can also teach her the "drop it" command as described here: https://wagwalking.com/training/drop-it. Good luck!

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