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Help! My Dog Suddenly Steals Food: 7 Reasons & Easy Solutions

Last Updated: December 10, 2023

Have you ever caught your dog sneaking a bite of your food or raiding the pantry when you’re not looking? While it may seem harmless, sudden food stealing can indicate underlying issues that require attention. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve caught my German Shepherd trying to snaffle food from the kitchen table! So, why do dogs suddenly start to steal food?

Your dog might suddenly start stealing food due to a medical condition, boredom, or polyphagia. Other causes are attention-seeking behavior, diet changes, anxiety, and natural instincts. Although food stealing among dogs is common behavior, determining the exact cause helps address it better.

In this article, we’ll explore why dogs suddenly start stealing food and provide tips and strategies for solving the behavior. Whether your dog is motivated by hunger, boredom, or something else, we’ll help you develop a plan to keep your dog safe, healthy, and happy.

Why Has My Dog Suddenly Started Stealing Food?

Why Do Dogs Suddenly Start Stealing Food?

Dogs are known for their love of food, but it can be frustrating and concerning when they start stealing food. There are several reasons for this, and understanding the exact cause is the first step in tackling the issue.

Hunger or Changes in Diet

One of the most common reasons dogs suddenly start stealing food is due to hunger or changes in their diet. Our furry friends have a natural instinct to find food, and if they are not getting enough to eat or their diet has changed, they may turn to pilfering it.

Pay attention to their eating habits to identify if your dog is stealing food due to hunger or changes in diet. Are they finishing their meals quickly or leaving food in their bowl? Are they losing weight or appearing more hungry than usual?

To ensure your dog gets sufficient nutrients, check that their diet is balanced and appropriate for their age and activity level – and ensure you are feeding them the right amount. Have a conversation with your veterinarian to determine the best type of food for your dog.

If you are feeding your dog a new type (e.g., wet, dry, raw, homemade) or brand of food, introduce it gradually over several days to avoid a digestive upset. And yes, it’s okay to mix dog food brands while transitioning.

You may also consider feeding smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. This can help keep your dog satisfied and prevent them from feeling hungry. Also, avoid giving your dog table scraps or too much human food, which can disrupt their diet and lead to unhealthy behaviors such as scavaging.

Watch How To Get Your Dog To Stop Stealing Food In This Video…


Another common reason why dogs may suddenly start stealing food is boredom. Dogs that are bored or lack stimulation may turn to pilfering food to entertain themselves. I have to admit; I go on a chocolate hunt when boredom sets in!

“This behavior is more common in dogs that are left alone for long periods or do not receive enough exercise.”

Pay attention to their behavior when they are left alone to identify if your dog is stealing food due to boredom. Do they seem restless or anxious? Are they destructive or engaging in other unwanted behaviors?

To fix this issue, provide your dog with plenty of physical exercise, playtime, and mental stimulation. Take your dog for regular walks, play fetch or tug-of-war, and engage in other activities your furry friend enjoys.

Puzzle toys, interactive games, and training sessions are all great ways to keep your dog engaged. I love the Outward Hound Dog Brick Treat Puzzle Toy from Amazon. This boredom buster will keep your doggo occupied as he tries to find treats in the various compartments. It’s also a helpful toy for redirecting destructive behavior.

You can even hire a dog walker or pet sitter to give your dog additional exercise and attention during the day. Another solution is to enroll them in doggy daycare.

Dog Stealing Food From Picnic Basket


Anxiety can be the cause of your dog’s food-stealing antics. Dogs that are anxious or stressed may turn to stealing food as a way to cope with their emotions. This behavior is more common in dogs that have experienced a traumatic event or have separation anxiety.

To determine if your dog is pinching food due to stress or anxiety, look out for the following signs:

  • Restlessness or pacing
  • Excessive barking or whining
  • Destructive behavior
  • Panting or shaking
  • Loss of appetite
  • Aggression towards other dogs or people

Once you have identified the source of your dog’s anxiety, you must work to solve it. This may involve creating a more predictable routine, providing a safe and secure space for your dog, or working with a veterinarian or professional trainer to rectify any behavior issues.

You could also provide your dog with calming supplements or medication to help manage their anxiety.

Natural Instincts

Dogs have a natural instinct to scavenge and forage for food, which can lead to stealing behavior. This behavior is more common in breeds with a strong prey drive or guarding instincts, such as the Beagle, Doberman, or German Shepherd. Dogs may also pilfer food as a way to protect their resources or to hoard food for later.

To solve this issue, provide your dog with appropriate outlets for their natural instincts. This may involve providing chew toys, puzzle toys, or interactive feeders that allow your dog to work for their food.

You should also train your dog to drop or leave items on command. This can help prevent them from hoarding or guarding food and other things.

Pro Tip! Some dogs may have a stronger prey drive or guarding instinct than others which may require the help of a professional trainer.

Dog Stealing Food From Table

Attention-seeking Behavior

Dogs may also steal food to seek attention from their owners. This behavior is more common in those who are not getting enough attention or being left alone for long periods.

Causes of attention-seeking behavior can include:

  • Lack of exercise or mental stimulation
  • Separation anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Lack of attention from owners
  • Inconsistent or confusing training

To know if your dog is stealing food as a way to seek attention, look out for the following signs:

  • Stealing food when you are in the room
  • Seeking attention before or after pinching food
  • Looking at you or wagging their tail while stealing food
  • Repeating the behavior even after being scolded or punished

To solve this issue, establish consistent rules and boundaries. Avoid rewarding attention-seeking behavior, such as giving your dog cuddles or treats when they thieve food. Instead, reward your dog for positive behaviors, such as sitting or staying on command.

Ensure you give your dog lots of attention and spend quality time with your furry friend.

Health Issues

Dogs may also steal food as a result of underlying health issues. Those with certain medical conditions may experience increased hunger or changes in appetite, which can lead to stealing behavior. Sometimes, they may also steal food to self-medicate or alleviate discomfort.

Possible health issues that can cause dogs to thieve food include:

  • Thyroid disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Dental problems
  • Parasites or infections

Signs of these health problems can include increased hunger, changes in appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy.

Ensure you consult with your veterinarian so that they can perform a physical exam and run diagnostic tests to identify the cause. Treatment may involve medication, dietary changes, or other interventions to manage the condition and alleviate symptoms.

Labrador Asking For Food Carrying His Empty Bowl


Polyphagia is a medical term that refers to an excessive appetite or overfeeding. Dogs with polyphagia have an abnormal and insatiable appetite, which can lead to scavaging behavior. Polyphagia can be caused by various medical conditions, such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease, or thyroid disorders.

Polyphagia can impact dogs in several ways. Dogs with polyphagia may also experience weight gain, increased thirst and urination, and changes in behavior or energy levels.

Treatment may involve medication, dietary changes, or other interventions to manage the condition and alleviate symptoms.

Ensure you establish consistent feeding routines and avoid overfeeding your furry friend. Provide high-quality, nutritious food in appropriate portions, and avoid giving them table scraps or other high-calorie treats.

How To Discipline A Dog For Stealing Food

When your dog constantly repeats the poor act of stealing food, it can get annoying. Even after sufficient exercise, some dogs might snatch food and pretend nothing has happened! In such cases, the only solution is to discipline your dog for thieving food.

If you’re a beginner, you need to know the secret method to discipline a dog. Here you go!

  1. Prevent access to food: The first step in disciplining a dog for stealing food is to prevent access to food when you are not around. Keep food out of reach or in a secure location when you are not able to supervise your dog.
  2. Use a firm “NO!” command: If you catch your dog stealing food, use a firm “NO!” command to interrupt the behavior. This will let your dog know that the behavior is not acceptable.
  3. Remove the food: After using the “NO!” command, remove the food from your dog’s reach. This will help prevent your dog from continuing to grab food.
  4. Redirect your dog: Once the food has been removed, redirect your dog’s attention to an appropriate activity, such as playing with a toy or engaging in training exercises.
  5. Reward positive behavior: When your dog engages in appropriate behavior, such as leaving food alone or responding to a command, reward them with praise, treats, or playtime. This will reinforce the positive behavior and help prevent future stealing behavior.

Caution! Discipline should never involve physical punishment or aggression toward your dog.

But why?

Studies have proved that these methods can be harmful and may actually worsen the behavior. A recent study also highlighted that dogs subjected to two or more aversive training methods had a more negative mood state, thus affecting their welfare.

Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and consistent training to help your dog learn appropriate behavior. That way, you can help prevent your dog from pinching food and build a strong bond of trust and respect.


What is Counter Surfing in Dogs?

Counter surfing is a behavior in which dogs jump up onto counters or tables in search of food or other items. This behavior can be frustrating and potentially dangerous, as dogs may ingest harmful or toxic items or cause injury to themselves.

There are several reasons why dogs may engage in counter-surfing behavior. Some dogs may be motivated by hunger or a desire for food, while others may seek attention or want to explore their environment.

Some dogs will even react to certain stimuli, which can influence their decision to snaffle. For example, a study found that dogs steal considerably more food when it is dark than when it is light.

Should I Punish My Dog For Stealing Food?

Punishing your dog for stealing food can worsen the behavior and cause other problems. Instead, focus on prevention and rewards-based training to teach your dog appropriate behavior. Keep food out of reach or in a secure location, and reward your pup for good behavior.

Can Training Help Stop My Dog From Stealing Food?

Training can help stop your dog from stealing food. Using positive reinforcement techniques and consistent training, you can teach your dog appropriate behavior and prevent them from pilfering food.

Start by establishing clear rules and boundaries for your dog, and use the “leave it” command to discourage your dog from approaching the food.

How Long Does It Take To Train a Dog To Stop Stealing Food?

The time it takes to train a dog to stop stealing food can vary depending on several factors, such as the dog’s age, temperament, and the cause of the behavior. Some dogs may respond quickly to training and show improvements within a few weeks, while others may require more time and patience.

Training should be ongoing and integrated into your daily routine to help your dog learn and maintain appropriate behavior.

Can Medication Help My Dog Stop Stealing Food?

If your dog is stealing food due to a medical condition, medication may help manage the condition and alleviate symptoms, which may help reduce the thieving behavior. However, medication alone is not likely to stop the problem if other factors, such as boredom or hunger, drive the behavior.

Final Thoughts

Sudden food-stealing behavior in dogs can be a sign of rudimentary issues that require attention. Whether your dog is motivated by hunger, boredom, or something else entirely, there are several strategies you can use to prevent food-stealing behavior.

Remember, food-stealing behavior is not a reflection of your dog’s character or your relationship with them. With the right tools and resources, you can help your dog overcome this behavior and build a strong bond of trust and respect.

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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