Every dog loves a good game of keep away. And every dog owner has experienced the sheer panic upon first spotting that favorite, or very expensive, item in their dog’s mouth. However, before you go chasing after him to take back your favorite cashmere sweater it is important to remember that it takes two to play this game.
The first step in avoiding keep away is to train your puppy to “give”. At different times, while your puppy is playing with his toys, offer your neutral upturned hands to him, at some point the dog will start to put toys in, or near, your hands. Once your dog consistently drops, or gives, items to you without the command, start using the word “give.” When his mouth opens up and you say “give” it should be followed with praise. Give the dog a big “Yes” and immediately throw the toy as the reward.
If your puppy does try to start a game of keep away your first thought may be to chase the dog, with eyes and mind fixated on getting that object back. However, the fixation should be on your dog, not their new favorite toy. Your reaction in these situations will determine your dog’s reaction.
If your puppy tries to play the game with one of his toys or something that isn’t valuable, like a sock, let him continue to play with it. Throw the item, let the puppy do what he will, and if he comes back to you, praise him, pet him, tell him how wonderful he is, but ignore the toy!
If your dog has something of value offer him an appropriate toy or treat in exchange. If you always give him his favorite treat when he brings you your new leather shoes, switch it up by trying a favorite toy or a walk instead. By offering a variety of awards in exchange you ensure that the puppy doesn’t start asking for his favorite treat by bringing you inappropriate items.
If you have a dog that has developed a keep away problem, it may be time to start re-training “give” in a small area without much stimulation so that you and the toy will be the focal point.