It's harder to break a dog's habit than it is to just not start one in the first place. If you have a puppy or have adopted a dog that doesn't beg, do not start feeding them from the table or while preparing food. Owners that do this will eventually need to learn how to train a dog to stop begging and rewire this behavior because it's harmful to dogs.
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Did you know that dogs are aware of their “adorable puppy eyes”? No, your pooch is not starving, they don't feel bad and they're not actually sad. Your dog is tricking you.
Studies have shown that canines know exactly what they're doing – manipulating their owners into giving them food. Apparently, this is the result of thousands of years of evolution and dog domestication. Essentially, dogs learned to emulate recognizable to us human eye movements to their advantage so that we would empathize with them.
Problems with Dog Begging Behavior
You're probably dealing with dog begging behavior right now. Whether you created this yourself or you're trying to fix an issue that someone else instilled in your dog, it's going to take patience and consistency to keep a dog from drooling over your dinner, but you do need to fix it for several reasons.
Some owners find sad puppy dog eyes adorable and love sharing meals with them. While this might bring you joy, such behavior is bringing your dog unnecessary extra calories, potentially making the dog overweight. It's also filling a dog's belly with possibly unhealthy ingredients, and may result in health complications.
To keep a dog healthy and extend their lifespan, the best thing you can do is feed them species-appropriate diet. At most, you can supplement the dog's daily feeding with some treats, some of which can be human foods. However, no foods or treats should be fed from your table or while you're preparing your own meal.
Most owners have been in this situation and had to break up a dog's begging habit, myself included. So below I'm sharing six easy steps that worked for me and my dogs, and that will assist you in learning how to train a dog to stop begging.
How to Train a Dog to Stop Begging
1. Make It a United Front
Everyone that eats in your home needs to be a united front when it comes to breaking this bad habit and training your dog to stop begging. If you're the only one trying to get the begging behavior to stop while your significant other or children are still feeding the dog from the table, you won't get anywhere.
This rule goes for any guests who come to eat in your home as well. Let everyone who comes in contact with your dog know that they are not allowed to feed the dog anything without permission from you. I know it sounds a bit extreme, but this is the only way you're going to teach your dog that begging will not earn the dog any snacks.
2. No Food From the Table or Kitchen
The dog can never, ever be given any food from the kitchen or directly from the table.
Yes, that means when you're preparing a meal or just wiping down counters. You don't want your dog to associate getting a treat with you being in the kitchen. Once your pet makes that association, they will know to pester you anytime in the future when you're trying to do anything in that room (kitchen or dining room).
The same goes for the table. Even if you only feed your dog from the table once each month, the dog remembers this and will continue to beg every day in hopes that today will be that day that he gets a treat.
If you want to succeed with training a dog to stop begging, you will have to commit to this one hundred percent. Again, there should be no food from the table or kitchen, ever.
3. Ignore Your Dog's Begging
Any attention, even negative attention, may motivate your dog to continue begging.
Of course he wants the food on your plate, but he also enjoys it when you pet him and speak to him. Even if you're just pushing the dog away and saying “No,” he's going to enjoy the attention that he's getting, and therefore will continue with this behavior.
What you must do is completely ignore the begging behavior. If you don't pay attention to your dog, in most cases, they will understand and give it up.
However, if you ignore the dog but the situation begins to get worse (the dog is now whining, drooling, trying to jump on the table) or if your pooch doesn't stop begging within a minute or two, it's time to get up from the table.
That brings us to the next step…
4. Pick a Spot and Stay There
If your dog's begging behavior continues even when you ignore him, you're going to have to get up from your meal to correct the dog. I know it's inconvenient, but it's the only way to show your canine that you mean business and that such behavior is not okay.
1. Choose a location where the dog will be safe and comfortable while your family eats. This can be a dog bed or a favorite spot that your pup likes to snuggle up.
2. Get up from the table, bring your dog to that chosen location and command him to ‘sit.' (Yes, he's going to need some command training before you can learn how to train a dog to stop begging effectively.)
3. As I mention in my video above, if your dog will not listen to this command (something you must fix in the future anyway), you can try using a pet gate.
4. Some dogs are extremely food motivated. While they may listen well to commands while outdoors, when they're staring at the spread on the dinner table it may be a whole different story.
If you're having trouble with obedience in your dog, you'll need to learn how to teach your pet at least the most basic commands. Here's a guide on how you can do this.
5 & 6. Be Patient and Stay Consistent
These two go hand-in-hand. Teaching a dog to stop begging isn't going to happen over one night. It may only take a few minutes to create a bad behavioral habit in your dog, but it could take weeks to break it.
The longer your dog has been allowed to beg, the longer it will take to break the habit. Moreover, if you're not consistent with your dog training routines, it will take even longer.
Even if you only feed the dog from the table once per month, he'll still be waiting there every day in hopes of a snack because it happened before. The only way to teach your dog that begging will not be rewarded is to never reward such behavior.
That means you can't give in to the big, sad eyes or the pathetic whines. A begging dog is rarely a hungry dog. You need to stick to your guns if you want to make this work.
With that said, this doesn't mean that you can never feed your dog human food treats. In fact, there are many types of people food that are great for dogs (e.g. apples, bananas, cucumbers, blueberries, raspberries). You just have to make sure that you feed him these healthy human treats in a way that cannot be associated with your own meals or snacks.
It's best to treat your dog somewhere besides the kitchen or the dining room. Also, it's important that you don't treat him directly before or after you eat. Don't feed him while you're preparing a meal either. You don't want to give him any reason to associate his treats with your food.