You have company over for dinner. The table is beautiful and the food smells and looks delicious. Unfortunately, your dog thinks so too and is sitting up and begging for morsels off everyone’s plate and, if not rewarded, attempting to take the food on his own or pawing at your guests. This can ruin the dinner party and is not particularly good for your dog either. How could this have been avoided?
Know that his is not the dogs fault and it started a very long time ago. Some horribly misguided individual who was trying to be a good pet owner did this while the pup was still very young and trained the dog for this very behavior. Want to know who taught your dog this trick? It was YOU.
No doubt you weren’t consciously training your pet for this unwanted behavior and you did it with the best of intentions but the behavior is here now and must be dealt with. Your dog learned this trick from all those times when little scraps of food were tossed down to a cute little puppy who staring up at you with those sad brown eyes. All of this could have been prevented by a simple act of will power then but now you have a problem to deal with.
So how can you stop your dog from begging?
Stop rewarding the behavior. This means not giving in and not paying attention to your dog when he begs. Make sure everyone in the household knows not to share their meals with the dog and follows this rule no matter what the circumstance. You may even have to confine your dog to its kennel or a separate room during meal or snack times if this is difficult. This is especially useful if you have people in the household who tend to feed the dog from the table despite the rules.
Don't fool yourselves - you have created a monster and it will take several weeks of consistent work on your part to break your dog of this habit. Once you start, he will most likely begin to whine and howl loudly in complaint of the treatment. DO NOT GIVE IN. If you do, the battle is lost and will be that much harder next time. One weak moment of slipping the dog a treat just to be nice (and you are not really being nice at all) can ruin all the prior training so standing your ground and enforcing the rule of not giving meal time treats to the dog is a must.
One way to implement this change is to feed the dog at the same time the rest of the family, preferably in a separate room. This way the dog has its own meal and will not feel the need to beg food from others in the household. If this is not an option, give your pet something to distract it, perhaps a toy to play with to keep them occupied throughout mealtime.
Consistent and rigid training is the only effective way to correct it. Every member and guest of your household must enforce the rules or all your work will be of no avail. Guests can pose a problem, especially if they slip their dogs treats when they eat. Just explain the rules before you sit down to eat and, I hate to say it but... watch them. It is a habit for them and they may not even know they are doing it. In this circumstance, I like to keep my dogs away from the table just in case.
Once you stop your dog from begging, you will be blessed with a healthier pet, a happier household and pride in your well-mannered canine friend.
B.L. Hill is a dog lover and has owned dogs for over 20 years.