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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Dog is a goat

I have a 2-year old labrador Indigo who often ends up walking around with stuff in his mouth that he shouldn't have. Fortunately, he seems to be smart enough to avoid real hot-button issues like clothing, shoes, personal items, etc. But many times he'll walk up to me with a receipt, business card, wrapped-up cable, etc. stuck in his mouth, usually with a bite missing. He looks guilty, yet he'll walk right up to me.

I'm not sure exactly how I should be reacting to this to make him stop. Right now I usually say, calmly, "Indigo... what have you got?" He looks at me. "Come here." He comes up to me. I pry his mouth open and pull the item out. I'll say, "No," without much tension, though maybe some exasperation. And sometimes, "What are you doing with this? Indigo, go get a toy (or bone)." He gets a toy. "Good toy, Indigo!"

Before he gets a proper toy, I don't give him any special attention, other than what I've mentioned above. If I don't have him get a toy he seems to think that I'm really mad at him because he'll act like he's walking on eggshells for a while, unless he leaves the room to grab something else.

It's either amusing or frustrating depending on the day. I rarely ever catch him actually picking something up, he's almost always already has it in his mouth. The only way to prevent it is to close the door with him in the room with me. Is there any more I can do to discourage this behavior?

Yes, I realize that he probably just bored and needs more play time, but I'm asking if I'm responding to the specific event appropriately.
 

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Rather than prying the article out of his mouth I would teach him to drop it. The easiest way is to trade. Have a good treat in your hand, say drop it and give him the treat when he does.
 

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The only problem with "Drop It", which he knows how to do, is that the type of items he picks up tend not to fall out of his mouth easily. Paper sticks to his tongue, or it's impaled on his teeth. Most of the time I only have to pry for smaller items that fit completely in his mouth. (He will have a very suspicious look on his face.) Larger items I can tell him to "Give" and he's pretty cooperative about it. He doesn't fight me either way.

Besides, if I made it a game he'd probably only do it more often.

I know he needs more play time. That's not the question. I just want to know if, when this happens, should I be responding any differently?
 

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Maybe teach him a prolonged open? You could say "say ahhh" and he'd open up for you and stay there while you were able to get whatever it was out? XD Just like the dentists ;) It would also make cleaning teeth and checking his mouth at the vet a lot easier. I think what you're doing is OKAY and not making things worse, but it could be better and he has the ability to improve!

If it's a depending on the day he's probably bored-just stuff a kong and freeze it or get a few puzzle toys maybe so he can keep himself entertained on those 'off' days. He would prob go for the toy that gives him treats before one that has less value like paper. I think it would take a bit of consistency to stop bringing you other things, but it would work.
 

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Maybe teach him a prolonged open? You could say "say ahhh" and he'd open up for you and stay there while you were able to get whatever it was out? XD Just like the dentists ;) It would also make cleaning teeth and checking his mouth at the vet a lot easier. I think what you're doing is OKAY and not making things worse, but it could be better and he has the ability to improve!

If it's a depending on the day he's probably bored-just stuff a kong and freeze it or get a few puzzle toys maybe so he can keep himself entertained on those 'off' days. He would prob go for the toy that gives him treats before one that has less value like paper. I think it would take a bit of consistency to stop bringing you other things, but it would work.
Well, they (plus his sister Violet) have plenty of toys that they know are fine for them to chew on (mostly Nylabones). And they have a couple of toys that they know if they bring one to me I'm likely to throw it for them again and again (silicone rubber toys). Sometimes I'm even surprised at how often I'll throw the darned things.

I shouldn't have said that I pry his mouth open. It's really no trouble getting the items back. He's only occasionally very slightly resistant to give me some things, but he doesn't put up a fight or anything. That's not the point.

The point is that if he's not asleep, and I can't see him, he's either paws-up on the kitchen counter looking for something to eat or cruising the house for something to pick up. If he walks past me with one thing that's not a toy, I know he's going to go get another unless I close the door. I have to keep him in the same room with me whenever he's inside. I'd like to be able to trust him to roam the house.

Maybe he'll grow out of it. He's only two.
 

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Teaching a better drop it will help him regardless of if that's the main issue or not. It's just the first step to encouraging resource guarding, and that is MUCH harder to get rid of.

You could keep him on a leash in the house attached to you in the meantime, which would keep him from grabbing everything-similar to house training some puppies. It sounds like he has too much freedom-you will eventually be able to let him roam, but he needs to learn to not hide your stuff first :p

I could trust my dog before roaming the apartment but since my roommate had left her out without supervising her at all, she got a lot worse and now she has to stay in my room where I can see her or on a leash if she's misbehaving. Eventually it won't be a problem anymore as she learns what is and is not okay but supervision is required..and she's about the same age, almost 2.

Maybe you can spray the items he typically likes to get with something that tastes bad?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I've never found a spray that they didn't want to eat. (I have weird dogs.)

I'm not sure how a leash is any different than closing the door to the room. Besides, how does keeping Indigo close and away from the opportunity of making the wrong choice now teach him to be more reliable later on? If I can see him, he's fine. If I can't he's either asleep or up to something.

He doesn't guard his resources. He does drop it if I ask and he can. He does give if he can't.
 

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My dog is a bit odd, but with her, at least when she's picking the object up for attention (which it kinda sounds like yours is) I've found it most effective to ignore her completely. When I pay no attention, she tends to hesitate slightly, at which point I call her to come. Taking a treat from me is incompatible with holding the object in her mouth. I then do a session of "leave it" training with the object if she seems really interested in it: click and treat whenever she makes eye contact.

Sometimes I will take her favorite toy or treat and carry it past her without looking at her or paying her any attention whatsoever. For instance, juggling a tennis ball or two, or bouncing and catching one. This way she learns that the best fun comes from permitted things.
 
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