Every dog owner has had to deal with their dogs begging. You sit down to enjoy a meal, and there are those puppy eyes, silently pleading with you to share your food. Like they're starving (yeah, right ...) While it can be endearing at times, constant begging can become a nuisance and encourage bad behavior.
Understand the Root Cause
Before you can effectively address your dog's begging, it's important to understand why they do it. Dogs often beg for food simply because they've learned it gets them what they want ... your food! Every time you give in to those pleading eyes, you reinforce the begging behavior. While you may not mean to, this encourages them to beg even more.
Also, how you feed them - a little bit, and not every time - is part of the problem. Once you feed your dog from the table one time, or let them hover around you in the hope you drop a scrap of food, you're intermittently reinforcing their behavior. This is the strongest type of reinforcement, and it keeps your dog coming back for more in hopes of getting that tasty morsel they just know is coming, eventually.
1. Implementing Strict Mealtime Rules
Implementing strict mealtime rules is a foundational step in curbing your dog's begging. This means keeping them away from your eating area, and not allowing them to beg table-side. This shows your dog there is a difference between your meals and their own. By feeding your dog only during their designated meal times and in their eating area, you will establish a clear boundary.
By maintaining consistent feeding times, you ensure that your dog feels satisfied and less inclined to seek extra food. Remember, inconsistency can confuse your dog and reinforce begging, so it's important to stick to the rules you set. Over time, strict mealtime rules can prevent your dog from begging for your meals.
Don't ever give your dog scraps from your plate. Otherwise, you will unintentionally blur the boundaries.
2. Distracting Your Dog During Meal Times
Keep your dog occupied while you're eating. You could use puzzle toys filled with dog treats, as these not only keep them distracted but also engage their brain and senses. You may also want to consider having your dog in another room or in their crate during your meal times to further reinforce the boundaries.
3. Practicing Basic Commands
Practicing basic commands can be an effective tool. By teaching your dog commands like "Sit", "Stay", or "Leave it," you establish a clear line of communication and control over their behavior. For example, if your dog starts begging at the dinner table, a firm "Leave it" command can signal them to stop.
It's crucial, however, to practice these commands consistently and in various contexts so your dog understands and obeys them on regular basis. Regularly practicing basic commands not only promotes general obedience but also provides a direct method to discourage begging
4. Use Positive Reinforcement
It's critical to always remember to reward your dog when they show good behavior. If your dog manages to get through a mealtime without begging, afterward (and away from where you were eating) praise them or offer them a dog-safe treat.
Positive reinforcement, including treats or praise, should be used to reward your dog is doing what you want them to do. Just be very careful that you aren't rewarding your dog (either with treats or praise) while they are begging. Wait until they are away from your table or eating area, are calm, and are not begging (and didn't just finish begging).
Never punish your dog for begging, as this only leads to fear and a weakened bond. Redirect their behavior to get them to do what you want.
5. Involve Everyone in the Household
Everyone in the house needs to be on the same page when it comes to your dog begging. Make sure everyone understands the rules and is committed to not giving in. Consistency from all family members is crucial for this training to work.
Let's say you follow these guidelines, but a family member continues to feed your dog scraps at the table. Even though you are following the rules, your dog won't understand why you are upset with the begging when someone else in the household happily offers to share their plate.
Break the Habit
Remember, breaking a begging habit won't happen overnight. With patience, consistency, and the right techniques, you can help your dog understand that begging is not acceptable. The result will be a more disciplined dog and more peaceful mealtimes for you and your family.