How to stop your dog from begging
As natural hunters, dogs can be pretty fixated on food. But the typical begging behaviour that some dogs display is primarily taught by humans. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to get rid of it if you are patient and diligent.
Why begging is a problem
Let's all admit, dogs can be irresistible: the large puppy eyes, the tilted head and the sweet look on their faces. How can you resist offering a treat? However, begging behaviour is undesirable for several reasons. First of all, all those extra snacks can lead to weight gain, which can lead to joint issues and other serious health issues. It can also lead to an uncomfortable neediness when a dog can't resist begging: every time you eat, your dog at your feet, nervously hoping to score some treats.
Why do dogs beg?
Dogs learn to beg because we teach them to. Dogs are smart animals, and they know exactly how to manipulate us to get what they want. Do you tend to show your love to your dog by occasionally offering a treat? Do you find it sad if you eat and your dog doesn't? You're not the only one, but this is based on a widespread misconception.
First of all, dogs do not have the emotional association with food that we humans have. For us, eating is a social event: a cosy way to share moments together, to relax and enjoy each other's company. For dogs, food is a means of survival. It is their instinct to beg for food as soon as the chance arises. But in a modern household, dogs get enough healthy food and shouldn't have to worry about begging.
It's important to remember: it isn't an act of love if you give into a dog's begging behaviour. You can show a dog love by establishing clear boundaries, a safe environment, sufficient rest, healthy meals, lots of fun and a trusting relationship between the two of you. Rewarding begging is not a part of that. As dog owners, we have to care for our dogs and set the necessary boundaries for them.
How to stop your dog from begging
You can train to stop your dog from begging by:
Distracting your dog when you eat your meals
- Ignore begging behaviour at all times
- Don't punish your dog for begging
- Distract your dog by giving them a toy or putting them on their bed.
- Provide healthy, nutritious meals
- Give snacks in a designated place (on their dog bed or crate)
- Ask family members and others to be consistent too
- Practice the 'let go' command when the dog picks up food they shouldn't have
- Praise good behaviour, such as when your dog stays quietly in their spot while you eat
Teaching your dog table manners
When you are having dinner, where is your dog? Some dogs are allowed to hang around under the table, or even sit at the table with their own plate!
The first step in unlearning begging behaviour is to disconnect your table manners from your dog. Dogs that beg are nearly always restless around people who are eating. It must be clear that if people eat, your dog is not a part of this. Put your dog in their basket, possibly with a chew snack or a toy. With this, you teach them that when you eat, they will be rewarded for leaving you alone.
Puppy tip: Keeping your dog away from the dining table is an important step in preventing begging behaviour. Do you have a puppy? Then this is the way to set things up from the beginning. You can also place the puppy in their crate to teach that mealtime for people is their rest time.
Consistency is key
The trickiest and most important thing about begging training is to be consistent. Never give the dog food when they beg: not when you sit at the table, not in-between snacks, no sneaking a small bite, no piece of sausage at a party or 'accidentally' dropping something on the floor. Just don't do it, for the sake and wellbeing of your dog.
Do you want to reward your dog with something tasty without enhancing begging behaviour? Then grab a dog snack and give it to your dog at a time of your choosing. Not when the dog begs. Snacks can be an awesome way of rewarding your doggo during training but avoid your dog over-focusing on food. You can also reward your dog with praise, playtime and belly-rubs!
Ignore begging behaviour
Does your dog get restless when you eat? Do they scratch for attention, bark or excitedly wag beside you? Don't punish your dog by getting angry or raising your voice. Instead, just ignore unwanted behaviour. The reason for this is that paying attention to begging is a form of reward. Just ignore it: pretend you don't notice the behaviour. Every time your dog starts up on the begging routine, calmly take them to their spot and give them praise. At the start, you will probably do this 100 times. But be patient: your dog will understand and accept that begging behaviour does not benefit them.
Peace and quiet
Begging is a behaviour that you can turn around - we promise! In practice, it is especially difficult to be consistent. But with patience, you will succeed. Dogs can quickly learn that begging isn't rewarding. You can look forward to the satisfaction of seeing your dog calmly minding their own business when you or other people are eating. You can both relax and enjoy your meals in a healthy, relaxing way. It will be worth it!