I've got a lab/golden retriever mix that is super food obsessed - shocking I know
From this post I think it will be obvious that I don't know a ton about dog behaviour/training. I also want to preface it with the fact that we adopted him (Luca) just about 2 years ago at the age of 6. He had spent his entire life, from 8-week old puppy until then with one family and then they decided they didn't want him anymore. So we do not know his training history at all or how he was treated/handled as a puppy.
There are two main issues we are having with him. One is the food stealing. Anything within Luca's reach his fair game to him (or even if it's out of reach, he will figure out how to reach it if left alone for long enough; he's very resourceful). I understand that this is 100% normal dog behaviour and anytime he does thieve something, I know that it's our fault for making it available to him. We do attempt to use a baby gate to separate him from food, but we have a 1.5 year old toddler so sometimes we might not have enough time to put up the gate in the kitchen before running to prevent the kid from doing something suicidal. However, he will still jump up on the counter/table even if I am right there in the same room and just happen to shift my focus for 1.5 seconds. And if he sees an opening, and I say, "Luca, no!" he will actually just run faster instead of backing off to get even just one bite of food before I can get to him. Is it normal for a dog to be so absolutely bold and brazen? Like, it's super infuriating. And any sort of negative repercussions have zero effect on him of course, as he's already rewarded himself with the food.
Second is when he manages to grab something off the counter/table or if he finds something delicious when we're out for a walk. When we feed him his meals or give him treats, he sits like a perfectly well-mannered and obedient dog (other than the out of control salivating) and he knows to wait until I tell him, "take it", even if he has to wait for an hour. If he is then eating from his bowl, or even chewing a bone I have given him, I can with 100% confidence take the food/bone/whatever right from his mouth with no reaction. However, if it's something he has found himself or stolen, he clamps his jaws so tight and absolutely will not drop it. And if it's something he absolutely should not eat (i.e. chicken carcass, rotting roadkill squirrel corpse ) and you try to get it away from him you literally have to pry his jaws apart and he does get defensive about it. He's never bitten one of us or anything but he does bare his teeth for about 1 second and has snapped before and then immediately turns back into his normal starving happy lab self.
I tried that training method of "leave it" where you have the handful of food and make the dog leave it and treat him when he stops searching your hand, and then drop food on the floor, etc. He was basically 100% perfect at it the first time. It seems like he's too smart to train that way - he's clearly smarter than me! He knows exactly when he has to obey a command in order to get a treat and when it's actually in his own best interest to ignore me and move at lightning speed to get at the food before I can get to him.
Anyway, just curious if anyone has any tips for me? My husband gets so mad at him and if I didn't absolutely forbid it, I think he would consider more extreme measures such as a shock collar or something. I also obviously want to avoid ever having a situation where I didn't feel like my daughter was safe around him. So anything at all that might make our home a little more harmonious would be much appreciated!