How to stop your dog stealing food

Although it is their natural instinct, a dog stealing food can be dangerous for many reasons. This guide will help you learn how to stop them and change this behaviour.

12th March 2015

Does your dog surf kitchen counters for leftovers? Is it common for your canine to sneakily steal snacks behind your back? Or has your pup swiped sandwiches straight from the plate?

Although it’s annoying when our dogs steal food, it can also be dangerous for them. Crafty canines who help themselves to anything within reach are at greater risk of eating something poisonous or getting injured.

Why do dogs suddenly start stealing food?

It’s a basic instinct for dogs to find food. For rescue dogs especially, stealing food could be a habit they learned while living in poor conditions with little to eat.

Provided you know they’re getting enough nutrition from their diet, it’s worth booking your dog an appointment with a vet – to rule out any underlying health problems that might cause your dog to feel hungry enough to steal human food.

Other reasons your dog might steal food:

  • Food is accessible – your canine companion could be stealing food for the simple reason they can reach it.
  • Boredom – dogs are intelligent and can become bored easily if they aren’t exercised or entertained every day.
  • Lack of training – puppies need to be taught about correct feeding behaviours, and rescue dogs might never have been trained to act appropriately around food.
  • Copying a furry friend – some dogs can copy behaviour after watching other pets steal food!

Should I punish my dog for stealing food?

It is never acceptable to punish a dog for stealing food.

To stop your dog from stealing food, it’s essential that training techniques involve lots of positivity, plenty of praise, and are based on reward.

How do I stop my dog from stealing food?

Luckily, there are lots of ways to deter your dog from stealing food…


By keeping food out of reach, you’re removing temptation. If there isn’t anything available for your dog to steal, they aren’t going to think your food is their meal!  

Exercise and entertainment

Dogs who enjoy daily exercise usually use enough energy to prevent them from developing negative behaviours, like stealing food.

If your dog is busy being entertained, they won’t worry about swiping snacks!

Dogs Trust offers plenty of creative enrichment ideas.


Training your dog to perform an action on command can distract them from running away with your dinner.

For example, if you notice your canine companion stalking the food on your plate, you could ask them to ‘lie down’ or request they ‘fetch a toy’ instead.

Set specific mealtimes

A strict feeding routine can be effective when deterring your dog from dinner theft.

Feeding your dog just before eating your own breakfast and dinner can prevent them from feeling the need to help themselves to your food.

It’s also beneficial to feed your dog in the same place every day, so they learn to associate that spot with eating, as it deters them from stealing your meals.

Professional support

Sometimes, it can become too challenging to manage pups who are persistent in their pursuit of human food!

So, if your dog is too devious in their efforts to eat your food, it might be time to ask for advice. Your vet should be able to suggest a suitable, qualified canine trainer or behaviourist to support you in the training of your dog.



More on our dog blog

Read more news articles, opinion pieces, reviews and personal stories behind our dogs on our blog. 


Need dog insurance?

Dog insurance can help cover the cost of veterinary treatment if your dog gets injured or falls ill.


We know pets

Animal Friends Insurance is a multi-award winning FCA-regulated pet insurer, founded in 1998 to provide industry-leading pet insurance and first-class animal care to create a better life for every animal.
As one of the UK’s largest pet insurance providers, Animal Friends works with vets, veterinary professionals, and partners pioneering the latest veterinary technology & healthcare advancements to achieve our vision.
Our policyholders have helped donate over £8.5 million to more than 800 animal charities worldwide and by educating and inspiring others to act on current events and responsible pet ownership, Animal Friends is driving positive change for animal welfare and conservation.