How Do I Stop My Dog From Begging?
Not the puppy dog eyes 🥺
It can be frustrating when you’re sitting down to eat after a long day, and your dog’s crying at your feet for a bite (especially if the food you’re eating isn’t safe for him).
Begging isn’t exactly the sweetest dog behavior. But luckily, you can teach your dog not to beg by following a few simple steps.
The Dodo spoke to Lauren Novack, a dog behavior consultant and trainer with NYC Behavior Vets, to find out how to teach your dog to stop begging.
Why do dogs beg?
Dogs beg because they want food and because it comes naturally to them.
“Dogs beg because they’ve figured out how to get your attention and yummies,” Novack told The Dodo.
When your dog’s begging at the table and you give him a piece of your meal just once, it reinforces the behavior; he knows that begging gets him treats, and he’ll do it again and again.
It’s also natural for dogs to beg. Their wolf ancestors were scavengers, and as they became domesticated and spent more time around people, they quickly learned the best ways to get food from them.
Why you should teach your dog not to beg
Teaching your dog not to beg will let you eat your meals in peace, and it can prevent health issues in your dog.
Not all human foods are safe for dogs, so when you give in and let your dog have a little bit of your food, you could be giving him something dangerous.
If you regularly give your dog scraps from the table, your dog can become overweight, which can lead to other health problems as he gets older, such as arthritis and diabetes.
How to teach your dog to stop begging
By managing your environment and training your dog (and yourself!), you can stop your dog from begging for food at the table.
Feed your dog before you eat
Feed your dog his meal before you eat and in a separate room. That way he’ll be less hungry when you eat, and he’ll learn that he gets his meals in that room (versus the kitchen, where you get your meals).
You should also try to feed your dog at the same time each day so he begins to recognize that those are his mealtimes, and that’s when he’ll be getting food — not whenever he begs for it.
Have your dog go to his place
You can actually train your dog to leave you alone while you’re eating by teaching him to go to his “place.”
“During mealtime, keep them in a separate room to prevent begging,” Novack said. “At the end of the meal, bring them into the room and send them to their spot.” His spot could be his crate, his bed or wherever his special place is in the house.
As you keep doing this, eventually your dog will learn to go to his place during mealtimes instead of waiting by your feet.
“As they get better at this, you can bring them into the room earlier and earlier in your meal,” Novack said. “Ultimately, when you sit down at the table, they should go to their spot and stay there until you’re done, at which point you can go over to them and give them the bite from your plate that you saved for them.”
Or, if you prefer not to reinforce feeding him table scraps, you can give him a special dog treat. These natural dog biscuits received The Dodo’s Paw of Approval, and you can get them from Amazon for $2.99.
And while your dog’s in his place, give him something else to keep him occupied so he’s less tempted to come over to the table, like a KONG toy filled with treats.
You can get the KONG Classic from Amazon for $7.49.
Don’t reward begging
You might feel guilty when your dog’s watching you eat, but giving your dog some food off your plate when he starts begging will only teach him that begging gets him what he wants (which is food).
“If they’re begging, they’re doing it because they’ve gotten food for it in the past,” Novack said.
You might think that you should give your dog a dog treat rather than food from your plate when he begs, but that actually isn’t a good idea either. By giving your dog a treat, you’re still teaching him that begging is a good way to get your attention — and, ultimately, food — when you’re in the middle of a meal.
The best thing to do is to just ignore your dog’s begging (as hard as that might be).
You should make sure that everyone else in the house, like friends and other family members, knows not to give your dog food scraps, too. Your dog will only learn through consistency. If he’s still getting food from other people by begging occasionally, he’ll know that it still works.
And if you want to prevent your dog from learning to beg in the first place, make sure you start early — because if he never gets rewarded for begging, he won’t continue to do it.
“Decide on house rules as soon as you get a dog,” Novack said. “Teach them what you want them to do to earn table scraps before they learn to beg.”
Rather than begging, teach your dog that he has to earn his treats by behaving well and by respecting your mealtime.
Reward your dog for good behavior
When your dog is staying away from the table and isn’t begging, then you can give him a treat to show him that he’s doing a good job.
But you shouldn’t give him food directly from the table, because that will encourage begging. Get up and give your pup a treat while he’s away from the table or after you’re done with your meal.
Counter-condition your dog
Sometimes it can be helpful to have your dog perform a different behavior when he starts to beg. You can throw a toy and tell him to fetch or tell him to go lie down. Doing something else can distract him and take his mind off of the food.
Block your dog from the table
One of the easiest ways to stop your dog from begging is to keep him away from the table altogether. You can do this by using a baby gate or pet gate to block off the area around the table while you’re eating. If your dog is crate trained, you can also put your dog in his crate.
You can get this gate from Amazon for $76.99.
Make sure you give your pup something else to keep him busy while you’re eating too, like an interactive toy.
Don’t get angry
Never get mad at your dog for begging.
“Don’t get frustrated with them or yell at them,” Novack said. “Dogs are scavengers, and they will do whatever they can for food.”
Yelling at your dog will just confuse or scare him, which won’t help to teach him. It will also give him negative attention for begging, which you don’t want either — so you should just ignore it.
Work with a trainer
If nothing else works, and your dog just won’t stop begging (and it’s driving you crazy), you may want to work with a trainer to figure out the best way to teach your dog not to beg.
Can dogs eat table scraps?
If you do decide to give your dog a little treat from your plate every now and then, just do it away from the table so you don’t encourage begging, and be sure to check that the food you’re giving him is safe for dogs to eat.
“When deciding what food off your plate to give them, be careful!” Novack said. “Feed moderately, just save them one or two small bites. Avoid fatty foods, spicy foods, onion, garlic and bones.”
It can be hard not to give in to your dog’s begging when he looks so cute doing it.
“Puppy-dog eyes are hard to resist!” Novack said. “If you don’t want your dog's chin in your lap during meals, you’ll need to teach them to do something else instead, like waiting quietly on their dog bed.”
But if you have a little patience and follow these tips, you can teach your dog to stop begging (and you can eat in peace).
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