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Plastic bags... I don't know what to do

1604 Views 13 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  RangerMom
Jack loves plastic bags. He shreds and eats them... usually before I can get to him (cause I panic and forget to call him to me nicely and end up chasing him)... and then I worry for weeks watching him closely to see if he stops eating or pooping... wondering how the hell I'm going to cover a blockage if he gets one and needs surgery.

Anyways... what happened yesterday brought me to tears.

We are walking along the trail by the river. Jack is offleash. I see him find a long plastic bread bag (like the kind a cheap loaf of bread comes in) and he starts to shred it and eat it. I yell "JACK!!!" and start running towards him (dumb first reaction) and he of course runs away from me. So I take a breath (meanwhile he's still shreding the bag and about to swallow the whole thing) and calmly call him to me (he comes...) "GOOD BOY"... then I start to take the bag away.

Now Jack isn't good with the drop command. We are working on it... but so far he's never really given me a fight when I take something out of his mouth... I can pry his mouth open and take it away without incident.

So I get the bag away... and suddenly he lunges for it and catches my hand with his teeth... I LOSE IT... my temper blows (this is where I go wrong)... and I grab his collar/harness thinking I'm going to make him sit and calm down before we proceed down the path... he goes crazy and starts lunging at and roughly mouthing whatever hand gets closest to his mouth.

I say roughly mouthing because he doesn't clamp down on my hand, nor does he break skin. Obviously he has the ability to do so... but even when I'm all crazy temper and he's feeding off it... he didn't get to that point.

So I'm yelling NO!... and trying to get a hold of him somewhere and prevent him from doing damage to my hands and get to a point where he and I both calm down but I get it in my head that I can't let him go... I have to "Win" this interaction.

He submits... I calm down. I tear up and leash him and we walk home without incident. I kinda ignored him for a few hours... then we did some cuddling and made up.

I know I need to work on drop command with him (and leave it!)... but I'm worrying every time he finds something on the path and swallows it before I get a chance to either see what it is or try getting it away from him. Perhaps I should have more faith in his Labrador digestive system and be thankful he at least shreds the bags first before swallowing. But my worry leads me to panic... which led to this very negative interaction between me and him.

Anyways... he's still a sweetheart... I just don't want to be heartbroken someday if he swallows the wrong thing.
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I sympathize. Maybe no off-leash for Jack for the time being, until he is better with the Leave It and Drop It commands?
Oh Linds I feel your pain. Remy is king of theiving things and swallowing them as fast as he can. We have a lot of hydrogen peroxide around for this...my trouser socks seem to be a favorite. :eek:

What we have been working on with him is his retrieve and "Drop It". Teaching him to bring things to us and put it down. Doesn't work for everything. He likes to play chase though and that is the hardest part for us.

Do you usually carry treats with you when you walk? Maybe it would be good for you to have something on you to trade with him.
I would keep on leash at all times until he knows and is 100% with "leave it" and "drop it". Have you started teaching him those yet?
I would definitely keep him on-leash until you know that he will drop-it or leave-it on command. After your initial response, you did the right thing by calming him down, leashing him up, and taking him home.

Bauer has a thing for socks and gloves, and it is a constant battle to make sure he doesn't get them. He has never eaten them, but I caught him once with a whole sock in his mouth (mouth closed). SCARY! Every once in a while he will get a glove that my husband throws on the low counter in the garage. He comes to the door, shows me the glove and runs away. Bauer's big weakness in life is pepperoni. He LOVES them, so that is our high reward treat. If he gets a glove and is outside, I grab a pepperoni and tell him to trade. He immediately comes over, gives me the glove and takes the pepperoni. Does he have something that he loves more than plastic bags? If so, I would keep it with you anytime he might be tempted.
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I got crap on another board for this, but I'll share it here anyways.

I always teach my dogs its more rewarding for them to bring me WHATEVER they have than to run away with it, and I'll tell you why.

I was dogsitting last summer and a friends dog grabbed my solar light. The old school kind that has a cord running through the bottom. Of course this darned dog doesn't/didn't know 'off' or leave it, or even to come when called (she's not been back since) and thought it great fun to run off with the light, pulling all the other lights out of the garden too. She burned the inside of her mouth, but was she giving it back? NOPE.

The first command I teach mine after their name is 'trade'. I have a juicy piece of kibble, and even if they're playing with their own toys, they bring me their toy and get their kibble.

If pup grabs a sock, 'trade' and they get a kibble. A shoe...Trade and treat.

Does dog eventually come up with their own game of 'Mom's eating dinner, if I bring her my frisbee she'll trade...' of course they do. But to me, thats less dangerous than the alternative.

So I suggest patiently teaching Jack to trade you. It might require a high level reward for something as highly rewarding to him as a plastic bag, but he'll get the idea. I bring this to mom, and she'll give me something good.

That said, mine are constantly picking things up when we walk on trails, and a quick 'trade' at least has me able to see what they've got. Luckily, its mostly Tim Hortons cups and the like.

Good luck with Jack.
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Good advice upthread. All I can offer beyond it is sympathy. Wes is in a phase right now where he's doing this 2-3x per walk, taking advantage of the DARK of the mornings/evenings during his walk. I can't even SEE that he's after something in order to issue the LEAVE IT. He just pokes his head out of a pile of leaves or bushes and is happily chomping on..... something.

Thus far, no problems w/input-output, but it's REALLY frustrating!
You have to have all plastic bags out of his reach. I know plastic bags are evehrywhere, but it will be worth the effort for his safety and your peace of mind. Walk him on a short leash so he has no chance of picking up anything. I always carry treats on walks and have certain places on the walk where we stop for treats. They focus on getting to the next treat station instead of what they can find along the way.
i like Melissa's advise.
i would keep him on leash, too. continue with the training and keep it fun. he'll learn to trust you, and when your relationship is solid, then everything else will fall into place.
Some dogs just grab and eat stuff and that's the way it is. Of course you will work on "leave it" or the "trade" command.

A friend of mine has a basset hound that eats rocks. She has had 3 surgeries to remove rocks. After the 3rd surgery my friend invested in a leather muzzle. Her dog wears the muzzle at all times when they are outside. People always assume the dog is a biter... but the fact is the muzzle has prevented rock eating and the dog has lead a long, normal life.

You might consider the muzzle until you can get the problem solidly in hand.
Well... today he brought me a whole dead squirrel and let me take it from him.

Go figure.
Something similar happened to Hunter the other day. On Saturday I was in the shower getting ready to go somewhere. It was mid afternoon, and I get out and get dressed. I come downstairs and my wife and my dog are nowhere to be found. Also, the front door is wide open. So I go out to see what's going on and I find my wife with Hunter over by the water hose. She was crying and upset.

It turns out he had gotten ahold of one of those silica bags that they put in shoeboxes (and everything!). It apparently got missed in the Christmas cleanup. She told me he didn't swallow it but he had opened it up and got the little bits all in his mouth. To top it off, when she was washing out his mouth some gawker stopped his car and was just staring at her. He probably thought she was abusing Hunter. So she was pretty shaken up and I didn't know what to think but I was very worried because those bags say they are basically poison.

So after we got everything out of his mouth we went inside and fired up the computer to see how bad it was going to be. While she was doing that I asked aloud, "Why is it poison if it's just sand?". So after doing some research it turns out those things aren't poisonous. I didn't read the website, but my wife read that you could eat a bag full of them and not die. You would just get sick and throw up. I can't believe I never knew that.

Anyhow, it was a pretty bad scare. It makes me wonder how dogs managed to not go extinct since they will eat anything in sight!
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I would go with the "trade" thing, teaching "drop it" and "leave it," and keeping peroxide on hand!
What Jackie said. Trading is a good way of handling it. Eventually you won't have to trade everytime, but you will show him that giving up things is good.
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