No matter how big or tasty their own bowl of food, nothing gets a dog salivating quite so much as the thought of a titbit from your plate. If your pooch is anything like the rest of them, come dinner time, there’s only one place you’ll find them: beneath the table. If all your efforts to tame your dog’s appetite have crashed and burned, don’t admit defeat just yet. With a bit of patience and a lot of know-how, even the most committed snacker can be taught to stop begging at the table.
Feed Them First
If your dog’s tummy is already good and full before you sit down to eat, the chances of them still having an appetite for begging is, if not eliminated, then at least reduced. Some dogs are going to beg regardless (if you ever wanted to know what a bottomless pit looks like, lock eyes with your pooch), but most dogs will be too busy digesting to worry about shoveling any more food in their mouths.
As AKC notes, one of the worst ways to respond to begging is to acknowledge it. No matter how plaintive they look, and no matter how many adorable puppy-dog glances they throw your way, don’t make eye contact with your pet if they approach you at the table. Equally, don’t respond to their behavior by punishing it. Dog’s don’t respond to negative reinforcement; unless you want to jeopardize your relationship with them and make them very miserable in the process, only ever use training techniques that rely on positive reinforcement.
Feed Them in a Different Room
Establishing boundaries can be a struggle, but it’s a struggle that every pet owner has to face at some point or another. Even if you’re a fan of communal eating, don’t think you have to feed your dog in the same room as you to make them feel a part of the family. If you eat in the dining room, feed your dog in the kitchen; if you eat in the kitchen, feed them in the laundry room (or any other room you don’t sit down to dine in). By establishing which areas of the house they eat in, and which areas of the house you eat in, you’ll be drawing a clear line in the sand about where’s an acceptable place to eat and where isn’t.
Keep Them Busy
A dog might be motivated by their tummies, but they’re usually happy enough to be distracted if the distraction is entertaining enough. Try given them a Kong filled with treats or peanut butter (if they get through it faster than you can eat, try freezing it first). A bone, food puzzle toy, or chew can also work wonders at keeping them well away from the table.
Teach Them to Work for Their Rewards
The Spruce has several great recommendations on how to stop your dog from begging, including teaching them to work for their treats. It’s a technique that’s often utilized by dog trainers, with the rewards including everything from a petting session to their favorite snack to a game of frisbee in the park. It’s a simple enough technique to master: start by teaching your dog to sit by their food bowl until you give them the command to eat. Soon enough, they’ll learn what kind of behaviors get the thumbs up (in other words, the ones that get them something nice) and the ones that don’t. Once they associate good behaviors with a treat, they’ll naturally start to give up on the things that don’t get rewarded (like begging at the table).
Tell Your Friends
It’s one thing to impose discipline in your own home, but often quite another to impose it in someone else’s. If you take your dog wherever you go, make sure your friends know about your “no-food at the table” rule. This means no slivers of chicken at lunchtime gatherings, no chips at a picnic, and no burger bites at barbeques. Getting your friends and family to play ball can sometimes feel an uphill struggle, but stick with it and eventually everyone will get the message.
Don’t Give In
Training isn’t a one-time thing. If you want consistent results, you’re going to have to be consistent in your message. If your dog thinks it’s only a matter of time before you relent and throw them a tasty titbit from your plate, they’re never going to give up on their obnoxious behaviors. Neither are they likely to back off if there’s anyone else in the family that’s likely to cave to their demands. Make sure you get everyone in the family on-board. If your dog knows no one’s going to give in, they’ll eventually stop bothering.
Teach Them Boundaries
Pets.webmd.com has some great ideas for controlling your dog’s begging, including using a leash or tether to keep them away from the table and confined to their own space. For people who want to establish boundaries without shutting their dog in another room, this makes a great alternative. Attach the leash to a piece of furniture or eye-hook and place a mat or bed next to the leash. Add a few toys to distract them and soon enough, you’ll be enjoying your dinner without having your dog drooling all over your shoes.
Teach Some Basic Commands
Dogs make great students. Spend some time teaching them basic instructions like “Sit,” “Stay,” and “Leave it” – you might be surprised at just how many different applications they have. Once they know the commands, a simple “leave” should be enough to stop any impulsive or annoying behaviors like begging or grabbing dropped food from the floor.
Make the Dining Room Out-of-Bounds
If all else fails, there’s one sure-fire way to stop your dog begging at the table. Stop them getting to it. The easiest way to do this is to simply shut the door to the dining room or kitchen while you’re eating. Some dogs might scratch or howl at the door. If this happens, training them to use a crate (and making it something of a second home with blankets and toys) is an easy solution. Once they become used to the crate, you could even keep it in the same room as you while you eat…. providing they’re comfortable to stay in their section of the room while something more entertaining is happening in yours, of course.