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Why Is My Dog Stealing Food? 5 Likely Reasons

Written by: Genevieve Dugal

Last Updated on April 30, 2024 by Dogster Team

Labrador eating cookies

Why Is My Dog Stealing Food? 5 Likely Reasons

Have you ever heard the expression “counter-surfing1“? It’s the term for the maddening behavior of your dog putting their big paws on your kitchen counter to steal leftover food—or worse, the whole chicken! Even if your dog doesn’t go so far as to jump on the counter, they may be stealing food from the trash can, the refrigerator, or the bowls of other pets in your household.

There are five main reasons behind this relatively common but infuriating behavior. Read on for more details and to find out how to prevent your dog from stealing food.


The 5 Likely Reasons Your Dog Is Stealing Food

1.  Your Dog Is Hungry

This is the most obvious reason: your dog is hungry and understands that the kitchen counter or the dining table conceals tasty treasures to reach for! After all, you spend your time cooking mouth-watering food there; it’s normal for your dog to want to nibble on a piece of it, too.

  • Determine proper dog food portions and ideal daily intake with our helpful calorie calculator here.

2. Your Dog Gets a Reward

Even if your dog is not necessarily hungry, they’ll steal food because they receive a reward each time they succeed. And we’re not just talking about the piece of meat: by stealing food from under your nose, your pup also catches your eye!

Even if you reprimand your dog, you are paying attention to them, which them a good reason to keep counter-surfing. In short, when a dog behaves in a certain way, and that behavior is rewarded or reinforced, they are more likely to repeat the behavior. Finding a delicious piece of chicken on the counter is an incredible reward. But if they also get your attention every time, they’re more likely to continue stealing your food.

3. Your Dog Needs a Little Training

Whether you have a brand new puppy or an older dog, a lack of obedience training may be why they keep jumping on the kitchen counter or stealing food elsewhere. Indeed, some dogs steal food simply because they never learned it was forbidden, or maybe they just need a little reminder. To remedy this behavior, you need to teach or re-teach your dog to react differently to food that doesn’t belong to them.

person training a small dog`
Image by: Pezibear, Pixabay

4. Your Dog Needs More Physical and Mental Stimulation

In other words, your pooch is bored! A lack of physical and mental stimulation can lead to many behavioral problems, including stealing food.

5. Your Dog Has an Anxiety Disorder

If your dog, in addition to stealing food, guards it fiercely afterward, they may be suffering from an anxiety disorder called resource guarding. Resource guarding isn’t limited to food; some dogs guard their toys and beds and prevent other pets and humans from accessing them.

This disorder usually develops during puppyhood. This is especially true if your dog grew up in a multi-dog household and had to fight to keep their resources.


Tips to Stop Your Dog from Stealing Food

Funny dog eating appetizing treat
Image by: Olena Yakobchuk, Shutterstock
  • Make sure your dog’s nutritional needs are met. Maybe they’re stealing food because they’re really hungry? If in doubt, ask your veterinarian for advice.
  • If your dog only eats once daily, divide their portion into two meals. This will give them the impression of being more sated.
  • Never free-feed your pup. This could tell them that when they’re hungry, they can eat all they want. So, why should they be deprived of eating the piece of chicken lying on the table?
  • Don’t leave any food or crumbs on your kitchen counter and dining table after the meal is over. There is no point in tempting your dog if you doubt their ability to resist a piece of food on the corner of the table.
  • Teach your dog to return to their pad or crate when they get too close to the table.
  • Make sure everyone in your household is on the same page. Don’t give your dog pieces of food when you’re cooking, and ask your family to do the same.
  • Don’t reprimand your dog for stealing food while you are away. A dog lives in the moment, so they won’t understand why you’re angry.
  • Keep your dog physically and mentally active. They will be less likely to steal food out of boredom if they burn enough energy daily.
  • Call a canine behavior expert if your dog is very aggressive toward food. You can examine the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB) site for more resources.



Changing your dog’s habit of stealing food is challenging because you must first understand why this behavior occurs. We’ve discussed the five most common reasons, but it can be difficult to know what’s really going on in your dog’s head. But most of the time, stealing food is simply a self-gratifying behavior for your dog.

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Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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