If you have an Australian Cattle Dog you may have already caught them stealing food. Counter surfing, raiding the trash can, and breaking into cupboards can be fun for a Blue Heeler. They can tend to be scavengers and can be opportunists. If they spot an opportunity to grab some food off the table or counter they probably will. Blue Heelers are smart dogs (learn just how smart here) and they can be very strategic at acquiring a quick snack.
Are all Blue Heelers food-obsessed?
Many, but not all Blue Heelers are very food motivated. Some dogs and dog breeds eat to live. Others live to eat. There are many Blue heelers that fit into the “lives to eat” category. Stealing food is not just about eating. Foraging is a natural instinct for dogs and provides as much pleasure and enrichment as eating itself.
A food-obsessed Blue Heeler does not know when to stop eating and will eat until they make themselves sick. They have no concept of enough. It is crucial to feed them in set meal quantities at set times. Free feeding a food-obsessed Blue heeler will result in them eating way more than they need. This strong food drive is the reason some Blue heelers are prone to being overweight or even obese. For a guide to see if your Blue Heeler is overweight see here.
How to stop a Blue Heeler from stealing food
If your Blue Heeler is food-obsessed they will be very strategic and cunning in acquiring food. How can you stop this behavior and is it even possible? These are some steps you can take to try and eliminate or at the very least reduce your Blue Heeler stealing food.
Provide sufficient exercise and mental stimulation
One of the main causes of behavior problems including stealing food is boredom. Foraging and eating is a great way to occupy themselves. This is why work-to-eat projects are such a good way to provide mental stimulation and enrichment for your Blue Heeler. For more on work-to-eat projects see here.
Blue Heelers are an active breed that requires at least one hour a day of moderate to intensive exercise and activity. For a full guide to Blue Heeler exercise with suggestions see here.
They are also very smart dogs that require challenges for their mind. Mental exercise can help to tire a dog as much as physical activity. For mental stimulation and enrichment ideas for a Blue Heeler see here.
The simplest way to stop your Blue Heeler from stealing food is to remove any opportunity for them to do it. In the dog’s mind, if you didn’t want them to eat it you wouldn’t have left it so they could.
- Put all food in airtight containers so they can’t open them
- Don’t leave food sitting on the table or counter
- Put childproof locks on cupboards so they can’t open them. You may even need to put a lock on the fridge.
- Ensure that they are not able to get up on counters or tables. Don’t leave chairs where they can use them to climb.
- Place rubbish bins inside cupboards or out of reach. Food scraps in the waste are just as appealing to a Beagle.
- Often, food stealing is done when they are home alone. Often this is due to boredom or even separation anxiety. For more on leaving a Blue Heeler home alone see here.
Remove your Blue Heeler from the room when eating or cooking
Don’t allow your Blue Heeler to be near you when you are cooking or eating. They will be poised to grab any food you drop or even steal it directly from your plate. You can put your Blue Heeler outside or in a crate during meal times. Alternatively, use baby gates to prevent them from entering the kitchen or dining areas.
Also, discourage any begging behavior. Don’t give them food that you may be eating or any table scraps.
It is important to teach your Blu Heeler that stealing food and counter surfing are unwanted behaviors. This requires teaching them a “leave” command.
To teach this you may want to have your Blue Heeler on a short leash. Place a plate of food on the floor out of their reach. This will probably get them excited and drooling. If they try to move towards or lunge at the plate give a gentle but firm correction on the leash and tell them to “leave it”.
Alternatively, you can use a unique sound such as “tsch” and give them a touch on the shoulder when they move towards the plate of food.
This will take a bit of practice and they may never be 100% trustworthy around food. In addition, you do need to be there when the dog is stealing the food. Often a Blue Heeler will leave the food when you are there and only try to steal it once they think they are on their own.
Summary – Stop a Blue Heeler from stealing food
Some Blue Heelers love food and stealing food is a common behavior issue with Bthese Heelers. Behavior problems like this are often the result of a dog that is bored. Ensure you provide plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom.
The simplest way to stop food-stealing behavior is to remove the opportunity. Ensure all food is put away or even don’t allow your Blue Heeler to the kitchen area. Don’t allow your Blue Heeler to be in the room when you are eating.
You can teach your Blue Heeler a leave it command. This will stop them from stealing food when you are there to see them. However, often food stealing is done when you are not around.
Fixing your Blue Heeler’s food-stealing behavior will take some preparation and patience.