Guests coming for the holidays? Sometimes we don’t realize how annoying the behavior of some of our dogs is until we see them at home from the company’s perspective. This is especially true when it comes to begging at the dinner table. While you may not be able to retrain your dog in time for Thanksgiving, there are things you can do. Training expert Mikkel Becker shows you how to keep your dinner whining and barking-free.
Don’t reward behavior
Dealing with this behavior is one of the hardest things for dog owners. When faced with a pair of begging puppy eyes, it can be difficult not to give in every now and then and toss a small kibble off your plate or snack bowl. Unfortunately, if I gave up even once, it would be very difficult to stop this behavior.
Use the “Location” command.
One way to stop dogs from begging is to teach your dog to go to his spot on command. The “place” can be anything from the rug under the sink to the dog crate.
Practice this, and whenever you sit down to a meal, let your dog go to his spot. If he doesn’t stay there while eating, remove the dog from the room for a minute or two (or leave the room yourself, if that’s easier), then get back together and try again.
Keep the dog busy
You can keep a special toy, like a stuffed Kong, to give to your dog during your mealtimes. This keeps your dog busy with something he enjoys and allows you to enjoy your special meal in peace.
Another option is to feed your dog at the same time as your meal. Put on food for the duration of your meal. Ignore the dog when it comes to you and asks you to. When your meal is over, pick up the bowl of food, whether eaten or not. Your dog will quickly learn that he has to eat his food with meals if he doesn’t want to be hungry.
Make your dog work for it
Many dog trainers recommend teaching a dog to work without reward, a technique often referred to as “nothing in life is free”. Rewards include food, attention, a walk, and anything else your dog enjoys.
Have your dog sit before putting the food bowl down, or wait for permission before taking them out into the yard. Your dog will quickly learn behaviors that you like (that is, the ones that make him do what he wants). You should see fewer unwanted behaviors like begging since this type of behavior is never rewarded.
Audit Issues and Behavior
Perseverance is key to preventing your dog from begging. If you have a puppy that has never tasted human food, he will not know how delicious that food is and what it is missing. It’s important that everyone eating around your dog is on the same page. Establish a rule in your home that no one feeds your dog except his food and his food. If you have visitors, make sure they know that too.
If you want to take this training a step further, you can actually teach your dog to refuse food. Admittedly, this is very difficult, as most dogs will eat anything edible they can get their teeth on. When training, the dog only gets the reward after using the word deliverance. With patience and consistency, most dogs can learn to refuse food in this manner within a few weeks. It gives you another line of defense if your dog asks for human food.