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 and Success Stories

Question
Auggie
AnimalBreed object
Two Years
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Question
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Auggie
AnimalBreed object
Two Years

Auggie is a rescue who is aggressive and fearful towards strangers, particularly men.

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

How long have you had Auggie? Is this new behavior? Taking it slowly will be key. I suggest speaking to a professional in the area who specializes in fearful and aggressive dogs. This is not easily fixed - but certainly not impossible. Patience and kindness will go a long way. Do you have a man in the household who can work with Auggie, helping her to come out of her shell and trust? Try one of these methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/trust. The key will be to not rush her and to stay consistent. But definitely seek outside help in person. In the meantime, take a look at this website, there may be helpful videos. https://robertcabral.com/. All the best to you and Auggie.

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Question
Loki
AnimalBreed object
9 Months
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Question
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Loki
AnimalBreed object
9 Months

He already has all of his adult teeth but is still eating everything, he can find and I don’t know what I should do about jt

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
674 Dog owners recommended

Hello Brooke, Between 6-9 months of age most puppies go through a second chewing phase - that's often more destructive than the first one. Although puppies are no longer teething, their jaws are maturing and they are gaining adult jaw strength. I generally tell people to expect chewing until pup is past a year - exactly how long depends on breed and the individual. Some slow maturing dogs may take until 18 months. That doesn't mean you can't start working on it now though, just that pup will still need to be crated when not supervised and need more supervision. Check out the article linked below for ways to work on the chewing. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ Pay special attention to the sections on teaching commands that can help and confinement. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Jarvis
AnimalBreed object
1 Year
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Question
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Jarvis
AnimalBreed object
1 Year

We adopted Jarvis in August 2019. When we first got him he wasn't too destructive , but as time went on and he would grab my moms shoes and eventually we would get them back. Now he chews and swallows almost all of his toys and chews and swallows clothing hangers as well. Also note that my dad introduced him into hangers as a toy. Recently he started going in my brothers room and started grabbing his stuff. He grab anything in the house and eat it just because.

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

Hello, Jarvis will need to be kept away from anything harmful - this means a pretty neat house on your part - with things like hangers well out of his reach (they could perforate this bowel and that can be fatal). I think that a vet visit is a good idea because when dogs develop a habit like eating strange things, it can mean a deficiency. If you are home when Jarvis is going after things, you will have to be firm yet kind and train him otherwise. Read this guide here: https://wagwalking.com/training/stop-chewing-on-things. Teach Jarvis the leave it command:https://wagwalking.com/training/leave-it and use that when you are home. When you are not home, I suggest putting Jarvis in a large dog crate. I had the same experience with my dog - he would chew the couch, CD's, shoes, etc. When I had to go out, I would put him in his crate wth a kong. The kong is indestructible. Fill a Jarvis-sized kong with softened kibble and a smear of peanut butter (natural only -no xylitol sweetener as it is toxic to dogs!) Freeze the kong and when you leave, put it in the crate with Jarvis. It will take a while for him to get through licking it, which is good. My dog used to run for the crate when he saw the kong. Eventually, after a year, I started to let him out of the crate when out, for a few minutes. Then longer, and now I leave him out all of the time. He grew out of the chewing habit. Good luck!

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Question
Trixie
AnimalBreed object
10 Weeks
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Trixie
AnimalBreed object
10 Weeks

We take our puppy to the backyard on leash every-time after her breakfast, nap and play. But instead of doing her business, she goes on eating grass, stones and any insects that comes along her way. We try to distract her using 'No' and treats, but she is not interested in the treats either. How can we teach her to stop eating those unwanted things and do her business?
Thanks,
Anjali

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
94 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I think a good suggestion is to teach her "leave it". Leave is great for anything you want your dog to leave alone. Instructions on leave it will be at the end of this response. After about a week or so of working on the command, you can start implementing it outside. Any time she starts to go after anything you don't want her to have, you give the command leave it. Once she breaks his attention away from the item, you reward her with a treat. I know you said she isn't interested in the treats, but now that there is a command to it, she may be a little more enticed to take the treat. Dogs often learn to ignore the word no because we apply it to everything. Here are the steps for "leave it" Teaching a dog 'leave it' Teaching “leave it” is not difficult. Begin the lessons inside your home or in an area with very few distractions. Here are the steps for teaching “leave it”: Make sure you have two different types of treats. One type can be fairly boring to the dog, but the other type should be a high-value treat that he finds pretty delicious. You will also want to make sure that the treats are broken up into pea-sized pieces so it won’t take him too long to eat them. Put one type of treat in each hand. If you like to train with a clicker as your marker, you can also hold a clicker in the same hand that holds the high-value treat. Then, place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the treat of lower value and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes sniffing your fist. As soon as your dog is done sniffing, you can either click with the clicker or say “yes.” Then offer him the higher-value treat in your other hand. Repeat until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “leave it.” When you say “leave it” and he stops sniffing right away, leash your dog and then toss a low-value treat outside of his reach. Wait until he stops sniffing and pulling toward the treat. As soon as he does, either say “yes” or click and then give him a high-value treat from your hand. Practice this exercise a number of times. Over time, by practicing “leave it,” your dog should stop pulling as soon as you give the cue. When rewarding him with a treat, make sure that it is something good, not plain old kibble. By doing so, you are teaching him that asking him to leave some food doesn’t mean he won’t get anything, but that in fact he might get something even more delicious. When your dog is reliably responding to the cue, you can teach him that “leave it” can apply to other things as well, not just food on the floor. Repeat the exercise with five different items that are fairly boring to your dog. After using five different “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items. You know your dog, so you alone know what items he would consider more interesting, but don’t jump to high-value items right away. To increase his chances of success at learning the cue, you want to work up to high-value items gradually. If Kleenex or a piece of plastic, for instance, would attract your dog on a walk, don’t start with those. Choose the items based on your ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave. . The reward he receives when he leaves an item can change as well. If your dog has a favorite toy, squeak it and play for a moment when he comes running to you after leaving the other item of interest. Most dogs love interacting with us, so a moment of praise or play with a toy can be just as effective as a treat. Keep it fun Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play. When your dog is proficient at the game in your home, start practicing in a variety of locations with more distractions.

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