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How To Stop Scavenging?

 Reviewed 19 September 2018 share-a-picture Or go to discussion?join-the-discussion dogphoto

==> "Do you mean stealing food?"

No. Dogs don't steal. But maybe your dog is doing something you don't even notice?

How To Stop Scavenging!

Make sure you memorize what this smart lady says:

In this Periodical:

First and most importantly, before you leave: Never buy this type of muzzle, for no reason at all!

dangerous: muzzle-to-prevent-biting-and-scavenging

If any muzzle then only a generously sized "breathable" basket style muzzle f, because the adjustable wrap-around type muzzle is

  • foolish
  • highly dangerous for everyone: dog, dog owner, bystanders, children,...!
  • needless, useless, unsuitable

I have seen so much harm being done from suddenly ueber agitated dogs wearing this type of muzzle!

What is Scavenging?

scavenging dogWith Scavenging we mean "clearing any item found on the ground or above and ingesting it".

Foraying, foraging, looting. Then gobbling it.

Is Scavenging Normal?

Dogs are scavengers by genomeYes, scavenging is normal for dogs: By genetical heritage, dogs are omnivore scavengers. Conversely, wolves are carnivore hunters. Totally different by nature!

Different digestive system, different immune system, and very importantly different nervous system, and so their brains work very different too: the brain is part of the nervous system.

Scavenging actually is THE canine trait that launched its very existence: Dogs are dogs because they evolved as scavengers of human food leftovers.

Food categoriesHuman FOOD leftovers, not today's sweets, nor snacks, nor processed and artificial "convenience foods", nor incinerated cancerous and euthanized animals craftily formed into kibble.

Just REAL food leftovers is what dogs evolved and thrived on to become the pet animals that we love.

Learning-history-from-time-travel-movie: Bill and Ted's Excellent AdventureSo let's briefly step into our time machine f to learn from history!

Historical Background of Dogs

Although there are controversial opinions (opinions exist for everything...), for scientists it is fact that it was exactly this scavenging behavior that brought us our modern canine friends: the domesticated dog.

human settlementAccording to fossil founds, some 33,000 years ago a few wolves that weren't as shy of humans as others in their pack narrowed in on human settlements in Siberia in order to ... scavenge some food remains, yes!

  • This was much easier than hunting other animals, and this motive certainly helped to reduce their shyness - called flight distance
  • This behavior intensified within these particular family lines of wolves, and soon these wolves stayed with the human settlers all the time

The human settlers liked the company of these friendly wolves: One reason probably was that, in "exchange" for the scavenged food leftovers the wolves protected the people from dangers, because the wolves would hear anything coming close long before the people could hear it.

It was a win-win for both parties really.

how-fast-wolves-turn-into-dogsThis moment was the start of our modern domesticated dogs! Soon the people must have ventured into targeted breeding of those wolves which demonstrated specific traits that our ancestors particularly liked.

  • Since wolves mature early within two years
  • and on average reproduce yearly
  • and the average litter size is 5

you can see how quickly our ancestors' targeted breeding venture churned out the new dog species!

(In the image I chose litter: 6 for ease of calculation...)

These dogs now were markedly different in their behavior from the initial wild wolves, who would attack people when they see a chance.

And from breeding generation to breeding generation - ie from year to year(!) - the newest dog generation became ever more docile towards people, while remaining hostile towards all other dangers.

So much that at some point these domesticated dogs were so different to their ancestors that they even protected the people from the wolves!

It is not clear at what time historically this most profound behavioral transition took place, but reportedly to this day eg the Anatolian Shepherd, English Mastiff, Presa Canario etc can thwart off wolves. If you have one of those dogs and have experience with that, we are all ears!

With this level of protection, now dogs had become people's best friend! And so the scavenging of human food leftovers continues to the present day.

Why do some dogs scavenge way more than others?

So then how comes that

  • some dogs can rarely or never be seen scavenging anything at all
  • other dogs pass by a lot of items and then scavenge selectively only specific items - but on the same walk ie one cannot argue with "different appetite"
  • and again other dogs can be seen to scavenge indiscriminately indoors and outdoors at every opportunity

How comes? Ever asked yourself?

Dogs that get industrial "wet food" or "dry food" aka kibble develop an indiscriminate taste - and in particular those that get little variety in brands.

The reason apparently is that the taste buds don't get training, and like when you never use a muscle, they get weaker and become indifferent.

These dogs then naturally tend to scavenge just about anything when they feel they don't get enough ordinary meals, or not regularly.

MyGermanShepherd-passing-by-scavenging-opportunityConversely, dogs that get only REAL FOODS, and so naturally always different ones, tend to scavenge not only less but are selective.

And indeed my adult GSD named Miguel frequently ignores a lot that's lying around somewhere and that as a puppy he always scavenged.* I am sometimes surprised because I know he had not had a meal yet, he must be hungry - and yet he doesn't scavenge it!

Of course this is totally plausible: When you always eat a good variety of REAL FOODS, even steam-cooked or solar-baked (yummy!), you easily become a gourmet - and likewise the dog: my gourmet dog Miguel, lol.

While when you always eat the same thing, say fast food cheeseburgers, or in case of the dog kibble, you become an indifferent eater: such dog owner may end up preferring fast food over French Cuisine, and such dog may soon not notice a taste difference between sweets or snacks and the kibble he gets.

So yes, it may actually be that the pet "food" industry leads the search rankings with their articles on "toxic people foods" because the industrial crap they sell causes an indiscriminate taste, leading dogs to scavenge sweets, snacks, and "convenience foods" at every opportunity.

Risks of Scavenging

You will have noticed that dogs in general don't 'analyse' found 'food' remains before they gobble them down. neutral

This kind of indiscriminate scavenging can lead to:

  • obstruction of the esophagus
  • piercing of mouth, throat, or stomach: sharp pieces of litter, splint bones, etc
  • ingesting manmade toxins
  • poisonous items in nature
  • bacteria and parasites from decayed waste and carrion
  • transmitted pathogen diseases, including those in feces
  • unsuitable items that irritate the digestive system
  • dietary allergies
  • too much scavenging, even of healthy items, may lead to Obesity

While scavenging always bears risks, the intense inbreeding of our modern dog breeds (particularly of popular breeds like the German Shepherd) has led to gastrointestinal sensitivities (and countless other health issues) that have made scavenging more risky for dogs - despite being scavengers by nature.

While all the above merely are potential health consequences of scavenging, in addition you need to consider the inevitable behavioral consequences of scavenging: Dogs that scavenge of course feel that they have control over food, which increases the conflict the dog is experiencing in its Pack!

As this is nowhere else explained, if you read this for the first time, to understand it, The Prime Secret about Dogs can be considered required reading. wink

Behavioral implications of scavenging

It is these behavioral implications of scavenging that lead to a whole array of problems for the dog owner. These problems can comprise:

  • excessive barking
  • jumping up
  • digging
  • couch possession and other territorial aggression
  • not coming when called
  • general ignoring the owner
  • food aggression
  • even aggression against the dog owner and other Pack members

How to Stop Scavenging?

So there is certainly a strong argument to make to prevent our dog from scavenging. But what exactly can we do about it?

Most importantly, as I recommended at the top, did you memorize what this smart lady says?!! And she says a lot more smart things indeed:

Here's a list of measures we can take to stop scavenging - in the order of usefulness, in my opinion:

  1. Actually applying our recommended Feeding Routine
  2. Sticking to our recommended Meal Times
  3. Committing to REAL Food dog meals
  4. Avoid throwing food treats on the ground, so that you don't even train your dog to scour the ground for something to eat!
  5. Keeping tempting items out of reach or even locked away
  6. Training the LEAVE IT command
  7. Walking on a short lead in tempting areas, unless your dog is trained to stay away from items
  8. Considering a basket-style muzzle f for the time being (puppy?!)

Below is a great video how to train the dog the right way to use the muzzle. It's a great video except for the fact that this dog owner seems to know only food rewards, which of course always is bad but in the case of muzzle training to prevent scavenging... using food rewards would feel like someone has lost their mind... cool

With the above great tips how to stop scavenging, you may be wondering: "What about all the things I read elsewhere, do they not work better, or don't they work at all??"

So, very briefly let's run through some of those as well:

Water pistol or plant water sprayer?

The purpose of a water pistol f or plant water sprayer f here is to distract the dog by spraying water into the dog's face (any dog) when the dog is doing something you don't like. For example, ingesting a found item, ie scavenging.

However, IF at all, this only works at that same moment and in close proximity. And needless to say, irritating a dog by spraying water in the face doesn't work for all dogs.

Regardless whether you feel items like these may help in your case, I don't feel that any of these items are necessary. But I also want to make clear that I find it wrong to stigmatize things like these: Kids and dogs have loads of FUN using eg a water pistol in PLAY!

The only point to make clear is that the kids may never use any item or any behavior(!) to annoy, scare, spook, or punish a dog. But this is a general rule and has nothing to do with these items in particular.

If the kids don't observe this general rule, they aren't allowed to play with the dog anyway: PLAY is for everyone to have FUN, not to take the piss out of anyone including the dog.

Mikki Discs?

The purpose of John Fisher's Mikki Discs too is to distract the dog (any dog). But in this case with the sound these discs make when you throw them in the direction of the dog - not at the dog(!) - and when they fall on the ground.

The Mikki Discs are very light: you can't throw them far, they can't hurt, and they are not meant to be thrown at the dog anyway.

Making the items taste unpleasant?

Some dog owners go a step further and change the appearance of the item that may attract their dog. Obviously, this can only work for items inside your house if you fear your dog might scavenge them, not for items your dog might find outdoors on a walk.

Typical forms of camouflage here are layering it with some spicy mustard f, Tabasco f, Bitter Apple Spray f or similar.

The purpose here is to make the item UNattractive to the dog.

Personally, I wouldn't go to such length though: I'd rather simply put the item away! And I'd rather use the spicy mustard and the Tabasco for my food. wink

What to Do When it's Too Late

Now, of course it may happen that we can't prevent scavenging anymore, because our dog has the item in question already in the mouth. What then?

Is the item still in the mouth?

At this point we could do with another trained(!) command: DROP IT.

Note that any item your dog has in the mouth normally is very attractive to the dog: in general, dogs don't keep something in the mouth that is only mildly attractive, they drop it all by themselves...

So, without resorting to some form of force, we need to have something that is more attractive to the dog: more attractive than very attractive...

The only things these can be are the ones as high up as possible in the canine quests hierarchy - see the ineffably important Periodical The Prime Secret about Dogs.

The top quest for any dog (unless traumatized) is to secure food (except at the brief moment of feeling full). Canines' second quest is to belong to a Pack.

So, in the likely case that we don't have some food treat at hand that is more attractive than the very attractive item that the dog has already in the mouth, we need to resort to quest Number 2 to make the dog drop the scavenged item voluntarily:

Demonstrative exclusion from the Pack - like dogs experience during litter socialization f when the mother trains her puppies to voluntarily want to behave well!

Is the dog choking on the item?

Larynx in DogsIf the item is at the front of the throat and the dog is choking, then there's a good chance that the dog will get out the item by itself.

However, if the dog turns to forceful coughing, pawing at the mouth, and respiratory distress, then most likely the item has reached the larynx, and the dog may not be able to cough out the item without our help.

This is an emergency: You will not have time to get to the nearest veterinary clinic, you must help the dog instantly yourself!

This is easy with the Ultimate Guide to Dog Health - which includes the Ultimate Guide to Dog First Aid as a bonus for free. Proceed as shown in those books.

Finally, note that if the dog's scavenging leads to diarrhea or vomiting for more than 24 hours, you should visit a quality vet straight away on the second day.



  • Scavenging is part of the dog's genetical heritage: scavenging is entirely normal for dogs
  • However, the frequency and amount of scavenging, and the self-restriction to dainties only versus indiscriminate scavenging, all these are learned behaviors
  • Behaviors learned through daily routine - foremost: the daily dog feeding - and behaviors learned through targeted training - foremost: avoiding bins etc, and not providing any food on the ground.

Meaning, as dog owner we do have significant influence on our dog's scavenging behavior. This fully explains why some dogs scavenge way more than others!

  • Risks of scavenging: see list above
  • Behavioral implications of scavenging: see list above
  • How to Stop Scavenging: see tips list above

Useful command training as regards scavenging:

  • GO (or GO AWAY from bins etc)

Until the dog automatically ignores attractive items - thus until dog adulthood - it may be necessary or at least sensible

Note that most likely you will only need the first five measures in the Stop Scavenging list above.

The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health incl. its free bonus, The Ultimate Guide to Dog First Aid, may come very handy or life-saving in case the dog cannot drop an obstructive item scavenged.

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