==> "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:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!
In this Periodical:
- What is Scavenging?
- Is Scavenging Normal?
- Historical Background - interesting!
- Risks of Scavenging
- How to Stop Scavenging!
- What to Do When it's Too Late
What is Scavenging?
With Scavenging we mean "clearing any item found on the ground or above and ingesting it".
Foraying, foraging, looting. Then gobbling it.
Is Scavenging Normal?
Yes, scavenging is normal for dogs. By genetical heritage, dogs are scavenger animals. More so than wolves, from which dogs descend. This actually is THE canine trait that launched its very existence!
So, let's briefly look at the historical background.
Historical Background - interesting!
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:
According 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 the 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.
This 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 these people particularly liked.
Since wolves (like dogs) mature early, they created a new offspring every year, so that very quickly the people had bred dogs:
Wolves that were markedly different in their behavior from the initial wild wolves (who would attack people when they see a chance). From breeding generation to breeding generation (ie year to year!) these new dogs became increasingly 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 transition took place, but it is said that still today eg the Anatolian Shepherd, English Mastiff, Presa Canario etc can thwart off wolves)
Now dogs had become people's best friend! Nonetheless the scavenging continued to the present day.
Risks of Scavenging
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 far more risky than it is for wolves. By the way, it is not all that rare that a wolf dies from scavenging, because wolves and dogs alike don't 'analyse' the found 'food' remains before they gulp them down.
Risks of scavenging:
- Obstruction in mouth or throat
- Piercing of mouth, throat, or stomach (sharp pieces of litter, splint bones, etc)
- Poisoning from plants or foreign bodies
- Bacteria and parasites from decayed waste and carrion
- Transmitted pathogen diseases, including those in feces (coprophagia!)
- Dietary disturbance (already this alone may lead to vomiting or diarrhea)
In addition, there are other issues related to scavenging:
- If a dog scavenges a lot, say the owner literally throws food remains at the dog, or the dog has ample opportunity to scavenge (say being a butcher's dog or in a bakery), then clearly this can lead to Obesity.
- Much more of a problem however relates to the behavior of dogs that have the opportunity to scavenge a lot, because the control over food increases the conflict the dog is experiencing in its Pack! See the Prime Secret about Dogs.
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, food aggression, and aggression against the dog owner.
How to Stop Scavenging!
So there is certainly a very strong argument 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 said?!! And she said a lot more smart things indeed:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!
Here's a list of measures we can take to prevent scavenging - in the order of usefulness (in my opinion):
1) Applying our recommended Feeding Routine
Very soon after you subscribed to MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG we sent you the massive Periodical number 9 about Dog Meals, Meal Times, and Feeding Routine. That Periodical was lined up early for good reason: It is paramount in order to build the BEST relationship with our GSD - which is our mission statement here.
The Feeding Routine that we suggested in that Periodical indeed has implications reaching as far as scavenging! Because if we apply this Feeding Routine consistently at each meal time (or most of them), we almost certainly can prevent scavenging from the outset.
In case you forgot about it and didn't apply it, make sure you study the Feeding Routine now again. You will notice that (amongst many other things) it trains your dog to eat only when you give the signal (a verbal or hand cue).
Hence, if applied consistently, it conditions your dog not to scavenge anything - neither items it finds outdoors nor items in your house that you didn't lock away (say the roasted turkey, a cake, cookies, or whatever).
2) Sticking to our recommended Meal Times
In addition, if you stick to our suggested consistent Meal Times (two or three for the adult dog, three or four for the puppy), then it is less likely that your dog grows very hungry at any point in time, and the dog then knows from experience that (s)he will get another meal very soon, and the dog's metabolism has then adapted to the fixed meal times.
Conversely, a dog that is very hungry is very hard to stop from scavenging - even with excellent training! Because, the most fundamental quest of the dog is to secure food! See the Prime Secret about Dogs.
Generally, a dog doesn't really know when it will get the next meal. Although dogs do build an expectation when you feed them regularly, if you diverted from the schedule only once then this will stay in your dog's memory much longer, and - being unsure about the next meal time - (s)he will make use of any chance to secure food.
3) Committing to the right Dog Meals
In addition, if you commit to our suggested Dog Meals, such that you don't feed table scraps - particularly not throwing food on the ground, or feeding your dog from above the table! - then your dog is never being conditioned to search for food outside its food bowl.
Then your dog will not scavenge the ground, and will not leap onto the table or kitchen counter to scavenge from there.
In fact, it has been reported that dogs that have never been 'hand-fed' (think of treats!), do not ever linger around their master drooling for food. - Which, contrary to what dog owners like to hear, is the true reason for a lot of (misinterpreted) canine affection towards their owner... (this we better discuss another time).
4) Keeping tempting items out of reach
Further, obviously it is a smart move to lock away items which you know are tempting for your dog. Put them out of reach. Needless to say, this doesn't work for items your dog might scavenge outdoors.
Note though that some dogs are so crafty that they open cupboard doors with their paw, and even open drawers by mouthing the knob! (One of our dogs did)
This is why (the right!) training has to be at the heart of our strategy to prevent our dog from scavenging. Without such training, there are just too many temptations for a dog to snatch some extra foods.
The most important training is the Feeding Routine mentioned above.
5) Training the LEAVE IT command
The objective to prevent scavenging is a great reason to teach your dog the LEAVE IT command - but note that I put this only at position 5 in this list, because:
How to train the LEAVE IT command
- Place an item that is attractive to your dog on the ground, and step away. If your dog approaches the item, firmly say "Leave it" while you step further backwards. Increase the distance that you move away from the item and from your dog (you can even go into another room).
- Reward your dog each time (s)he leaves the attractive item on the ground - whether or not focusing on you (because you want your dog not to scavenge items even if you are not around!). - Praise as reward is sufficient, no food treat needed.
6) Walking on a short lead in tempting areas
In certain places food remains are expected to be on the ground, say at bus stops, railway stations, near supermarkets, etc.
You know that such places are tempting to your dog, so if you feel you need to, put your dog on the short lead in those areas - but always walk with a loose leash.
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