Why do Collies Steal Things? (Training them not to steal)

Most of the time, collies take things for attention. Collies need lots of love, attention and mental stimulation to keep them happy and they know if they proudly prance in to your field of view with your favorite socks in their mouth a tug-of-war will soon ensue.

There are a few other situations where your collie may steal things, and we’ll look at them in this article.

One thing to keep in mind is that your collie doesn’t have any concept of “stealing”. When they steal something, they are just trying to achieve some goal to help fulfill their needs. This might be stealing food because they are hungry, or stealing a sock to get you to chase them to fulfill their need for love and attention.

To really understand why your collie steals things, (and to fix it) you need to examine the root cause of the behavior.

Why Your Collie is Stealing Things:

1: For Attention

Most of the time when your Collie steals something, it’s because they want attention. Collies are a highly intelligent breed, and they have been bred over hundreds of years to work with humans so they form a strong bond with their owner.

Collies need lots of love and attention, and plenty of mental stimulation to keep themselves happy and healthy.

If your dog feels like they aren’t getting enough attention from you they may steal something they know you will chase them for to get back.

Collies are very smart and know exactly how to push your buttons, they will ignore their toys and go straight for your socks to wind you up and initiate a chase around the room and a tug-of-war.

2: They Want to Play

When Collies aren’t getting the attention they feel they deserve from their owners, they are perfectly content to create their own fun.

If your pup is stealing shoes, socks, gloves – or anything else they can chew and throw around – they are probably just bored and looking for something fun to play with.

You can help combat this behavior by giving them lots of toys to play with instead.

Luna loves her toys and only steals things from around the house when she is looking for attention.

Luna’s favorite toy is Skunky Malunky

3: They are Hungry

If your dog is stealing food, it might be a sign that they are hungry, although usually it’s just because they think whatever food they found was a better option than their kibbles.

While you might be tempted to rush to feed your dog, it’s important to remember collies are scavengers by nature, and they may just be taking advantage of an irresistible opportunity to exercise their primal scavenger instincts.

Collies are usually not motivated by food, so they are not as likely to steal food as some other breeds (like dalmatians) although they will definitely work hard for a high value treat. (Luna likes smoked salmon)

Dogs evolved over thousands of years to scavenge their food and these primal instincts remain in your dog, whether you like it or not. You can help manage this behavior by leaving a small scrap of food for your dog whenever you have a meal.

Collies are anxious and sometimes take a long time to learn to trust people. They will feel much more calm and less likely to act on instinct if they know they can always rely on their beloved human to share their meals with them.

4: Herding Instincts

Collies have been trained for hundreds of years to work on farms, herding sheep and other animals.

Occasionally, your collie might have some ancestral instincts bubble to the surface of their consciousness and may round up your shoes, or their toys, or your dirty socks and collect them all in to a pile.

If your dog is doing this, they may be lacking the mental stimulation they need. You can remedy this with games, training, and toys that provide cognitive enrichment for your dog to keep their mind occupied and healthy.

Collies Stealing Food

If your collie is stealing food, they are acting on their primal instincts and it’s not necessarily a sign they are hungry or not getting enough food.

Collies are not obsessed with food, though a high value food will still awaken their primal scavenging instincts and it may be too much for them to resist.

The cold, hard truth is that even with ample training, if you leave a tasty morsel lying around, eventually your collie will hoover it up. It’s their instincts and you shouldn’t scold them for it.

Try positive reinforcement by sharing a small scrap of food from every meal with them, as a reward for waiting patiently.

Collies form a very strong bond with their owners due to hundreds of years of working with humans and will feel a lot more calm about food if they know they can trust their human to share with them.

Collie Stealing Food
Luna stealing pringles

Collies Stealing Shoes

Collies steal your shoes for a number of reasons, and while it may be undesirable behavior it’s important to remember they are only acting on instincts.

If your dog is stealing your shoes, it’s for one of three reasons and how you help them overcome this unwanted behavior will depend on why they are doing it in the first place.

Why collies steal shoes:

  • They want attention, or they want to play.
  • They want to chew them, especially if they are leather.
  • They want to herd your shoes in to a corner to satiate their ancestral instincts for herding.

Collie Collecting Things

Collies have been bred for hundreds of years to herd sheep and other animals. Herding and collecting is ingrained in the collie psyche. It may be that when your collie is hoarding your shoes in to a pile on the floor, they are just acting on instinct that’s been bred in to them.

This type of behavior is perfectly normal for collies, but it may be an indication that your dog is not getting the mental stimulation that they need.

Cognitive enrichment toys, mentally stimulating games, and lots of love and affection will satisfy your collie mentally and physically and stop them from hunting for something to keep themselves occupied in the shoe rack.

How to Stop Your Collie Stealing Things

When your dog steals something, they are just acting on instinct. No amount of training will ever eradicate that completely, but you can definitely take steps to improve the behavior if it’s becoming a problem.

Before you can treat the issue of your collie stealing things from around the house, you need to figure out the root cause of the behavior.

Collies easy to train, but they don’t respond to a heavy hand so generally the best option is positive reinforcement.

Collies Stealing Things
Luna steals things for attention, she loves the chase and tug-of-war

How to Stop Your Collie Stealing Food:

It’s perfectly normal for any dog to steal food. Although Collies aren’t as motivated by food as some other breeds, if you leave something your dog perceives as a high value snack lying around, eventually they are going to take it.

No amount of training will fully eradicate this behavior, but you can overcome it by sharing scraps of your food with your dog as a reward for sitting or lying down while you eat.

Collies like to feel like part of the family, moreso than other dogs thanks to three centuries of history of working with humans. Collies will be much more relaxed about food if they know you will share with them, and with their desired behaviors positively reinforced.

How to Stop Your Collie Stealing Shoes, Socks, and Gloves:

Collies steal socks, shoes, gloves, pens, bags and other fun looking objects for a number of reasons, and if you want to stop the behavior you have to look at the root cause of it.

Whether your dog is grabbing your best shoes to initiate a chase around the room followed by a fun tug-of-war, herding up your dirty socks in to a corner to satisfy their herding instincts, or chewing on your tasty leather gloves, the root cause is the same; Your collie feels they are not getting enough attention, or they are bored.

Collies need a lot more mental stimulation than other breeds, and if you’re not providing it for them, they will seek out some way to get it for themselves.

To stop your collie from stealing things, you need to provide them with cognitive enrichment toys and activities that will give them a chance to exercise their mind. If they are stealing things to get you to chase them, try hiding one of their toys and have them search for it, or play a tug-of-war with one of their own toys.

Collie Stealing Things
Collies often pick things up for entertainment, especially if they know it will get attention from you!

How to Get Your Collie to Drop a ‘Stolen’ Item:

To get your collie to drop a stolen item, you need to ensure you don’t engage in a chase or a tug-of-war with them, as this is what they want and just reinforces the unwanted behavior.

If they are stealing out of boredom, collecting your items, or stealing for attention you should instead offer them something they feel will be more fun, such as their favorite toy.

If they don’t seem interested, wiggle the toy around the carpet, make noises to attract them and they will soon drop whatever they had.

Training your dog to “swap” the toys like this will teach them that whatever you have is always a better option than them finding an object from around the house, and encourage them to use healthier methods for getting your attention.

About the author:

About the author:

Hollie and Border Collie

 Stuart MacPherson

Colliepedia Editor

 Stuart MacPherson

Colliepedia Editor

I'm an experienced collie owner from Scotland. I started Colliepedia to share everything I know about collies. All the pictures you see on colliepedia are of my beloved collie Luna

Learn More about me and Luna's story on the about page!