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Many Berner owners (as well as other breeds of course) seem to have an issue with their dogs 'wolfing' down 'stolen' items. While I think the compulsive eating of non-food items (aka PICA) is partly genetic in nature, I think the act of gobbling things is learned by puppies when their owners or other well meaning people grab things away from them.. I always remember at a club event how many people came up to me to tell me in an alarmed tone that Donner, then 10 weeks old "had a stick". One of them even took it away from him.

While I'm all for being safe, I have always allowed my dogs to explore their world with their mouths within reason. I was watching him play with the stick, and was not worried about it at all. He still loves sticks, but now they're usually longer than he is :-). If I don't want them to have something, I calmly trade it for something even better. I so often see people shrieking and charging at their dogs and puppies to take away a forbidden object.

This gives the dogs few options except to either run and play keep away, or eat it so they don't lose the coveted item.

I would recommend teaching your dog two behaviors that will come in handy throughout his lifetime. "Trade" and "off" or "leave it". To teach him 'trade' start with something of low value and give it to him or entice him with it. Once he has it, ask him what he has in a cheerful voice, and offer him a tasty morsel of food. You can then give it back to him, or distract him with some other behavior that he can be rewarded for. Work up to medium and then high value items, but always try to give him something better than what he had. For "off", I am going to copy/paste below something I wrote to a friend's brother a few weeks ago to save myself time :->. There is also a great video on this website that explains it. They use "leave it" for this behavior and "off" to mean something else, but I just use the cue "off" Here's that website: http://www.gentlepets.com/

Here's how I teach it: Have a pile of small (pea sized) treats ready. Hold one in your hand with your hand closed and offer your hand to the dog. Say NOTHING. Wait until the dog eventually stops trying to get at the treat. This can take a while, but be silent. He will probably lick the hand, maybe paw at it, etc. The instant the dog turns away even a tiny bit 'click' or say "yes!" and give him the treat (or another one). Repeat this until he is more visibly stepping away from your hand.

Once he's at that point, try it w/an open hand. Once you are _sure_ he will turn away form the food, you can say "off" just before. Don't say it too soon, or he will associate it w/whatever he's doing at the time, which might be sniffing your hand. Next, I take it to other surfaces, such as a chair, low table, etc. Cover lightly w/your hand at first, then try it out in the open, but be ready to cover it. Finally, I take it to the floor. In the case of the floor or ground, I never give them the one that's down there, always a different one. The reason is that, if once they've given you the behavior and they're rewarded w/the thing on the ground, they will think that's part of the game. And, if they are heading for something disgusting or dangerous that they might eat, I don't want them to think that once they've backed away they can then go get it. I know this behavior may seem different than what he's asking for, but it's exactly the behavior he needs.

I use the word "off" instead of "leave it" because it sounds softer. "Leave it' can come out sounding harsh. I try to focus on teaching a behavior that the dog can do to earn a reward rather than focusing on getting them to stop doing something without then giving them something I don't want them to do. This one behavior barely falls into that category, but the key is rewarding the behavior you want rather than punishing the one you don't want. Behaviors that are rewarded are repeated, it's that simple.

I have found that "off" is a cue that I use all the time. This morning on my dog walk, we came across part of a carcass of some unfortunate creature. Both my IG and one of my Berners were headed straight for it. The IG very likely would have 'tasted' it. I said 'off' to each of them and they immediately backed away and we walked on.