It’s a scene we’ve all been party to a million times or more. The table is set, the family is seated, and as you attempt to take that first bite of the delicious meal you’ve lovingly prepared, you become distracted by a most unwelcome site. Your beloved family dog is seated very nearby, eyeing your food longingly, perhaps with a long string of drool making its slow descent to the floor. Never does your dog sit so still or so quietly as when his gaze is focused squarely on that coveted prize of a hand out.
Begging for food is a very common complaint among dog parents. Perhaps it is a holdover from the early times of domestication when the only way to get food was to patiently wait alongside the humans at the fire. Whatever the reason, it can be highly annoying to everyone in the family and even embarrassing when you have guests. Let’s take a look at 10 ways to get your dog to stop begging.
#1 – Put Him in His Place
We’re not talking about an “oh, snap,” arm circling, finger wagging kind of place putting. Going to his “place” is a legit command that you can teach your dog in a relatively short amount of time. By designating a “place” for your pup, such as his bed or crate, there is somewhere he is expected to go to on command and remain until you release him. Naturally this takes some training but with consistency and practice your dog will pick it up.
Every time you eat, instruct your dog to go to his place and enforce it until you are done. The key is to be consistent. If you do this each and every time humans eat, you may be surprised to see that after a while, your dog automatically goes to his place during meal times.
#2 – Don’t Feed from the Table
If you feed your dog from the table, even once, you can expect that nose to be ready and waiting every time after. This is a common mistake that parents make while their dogs are puppies. It’s easy to understand. Puppies are absurdly adorable and hard to resist. You think you can correct the unwanted behavior in time but unfortunately, it’s a hard habit to break. The best way to set yourself up for success is to start off right. From the very beginning, don’t feed your dog from the table.
#3 – Train Your Children
If you have kids, you know this is a tough one. If all of the adults in the house abide by the rule to not feed from the table but the little ones constantly slip her a morsel here and a taste there, your dog will become a beggar, despite the best efforts of those in the house with a fully formed frontal cortex. It can be a painful and frustrating process but you’ve got to train the children not to feed the dog anything, anytime unless specifically given permission to do so.
This is where the “place” command comes in handy. Over time, your child will also become accustomed to the dog being in her place during meals and will stop trying to sneak food to her. With time and practice, your kids and your dog will both have better meal-time manners.
#4 – Feed Your Dog During Meal Times
To discourage begging, feed your dog at the same time that you take your meals. As plates are being set at the dinner table, fill his bowl with dinner, too. Being full and satisfied will make it less likely that he will come looking for scraps. If he finishes first, which he will, instruct him to go to his place, lay down, or simply let him outside for his post-dinner walk about the yard.
#5 – Give Your Dog a Distraction
Meal times offer a great opportunity to offer your dog toys stuffed with treats, a special bone, or a doggie toothbrush. Instead of mealtime being something she longs to participate in, it can be a special time of day for her to do something she doesn’t get to do any other time. The trick here is to onlygive her the special distraction during meals. If she gets it any old time, it won’t be nearly as appealing and she will be lured to the table to resume her bad begging behavior.
#6 – Ignore Your Dog Completely
When you dog is begging, any attention you give him can be reinforcement for the unwanted behavior. Even when you are clearly displeased with him and resort to scolding or yelling, your dog may see that as increasing his chances of getting what he wants. It is much better to completely ignore your dog than to raise your voice. Pretend your dog is not there and eventually, if you are very patient, your dog will get the message and move along. Repeat this at every meal, consistently.
#7 – Tether Your Dog Away from the Table
Using a leash and a fixed object, tether your dog away from the table. This can be a bit bothersome in the beginning as your dog may whine and bark. I know, this is a whole new set of problems to correct. Eventually you may be able to remove the leash with the goal being for your dog to keep his distance without the leash.
#8 – Pre-Meal Playtime or Exercise
Plan to have a vigorous play session or brisk walk before meal times. Throw the ball for 15 minutes of fetch, get down on the floor and play a game of tug, or hit the neighborhood streets for a fast-paced walk around the block. This will tire out your pup and encourage her to sleep soundly while the family enjoys dinner.
#9 – Make Sure Guests Know the Rules
You and your dog may have worked super hard to stop begging. So don’t let all of that effort vanish with a hand out from a well-intentioned but uninformed guest. Politely explain that you’ve been struggling with begging behavior. Let them know you’re finally seeing a change, you’d appreciate your guest not feeding your dog anything.
#10 – Don’t Let Your Dog Be the Clean Up Crew
This one is especially difficult to bear for those with young kids who constantly drop food around the table. It’s so much easier to let your furry friend clean up the fallout. It’s so much work to sweep or wipe it up yourself. However, tasting all that yummy food around the table encourages your dog to seek food there again and again. If you don’t want begging, it’s best to bust out the broom.
Dog begging is something that all dog parents contend with at some point. With patient practice, your dog can become the well-mannered pup of your mealtime dreams. Remember, consistency is key!