Teach Your Dog Not to Beg

Dogs are social creatures, and there's no event more social than the family meal. But as precious as it may be that your pet wants to join in, there's nothing fun or amusing about a dinner dominated by whining and pawing from under the table.

Why Snacking is Dangerous to Your Pet

Table begging is more than just an annoyance? It can be potentially harmful to your pet, warns Wayne Hunthausen, DVM, director of Animal Behavior Consultations in Westwood, Kansas. Dogs who are frequently fed at the table can suffer any of the following problems:

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Getting Your Dog to Stop Begging

Dogs beg at the table because we let them, and it only takes one time for the habit to begin.

Unfortunately, attention-getting behaviors like begging don't have to be indulged often to become a bad habit. The most effective way to get a dog to stop begging at the table is to completely ignore him, a task that's often easier said than done. According to Dr. Hunthausen, this means not talking to the animal or even making eye contact. "When you scold a dog in an effort to get him to stop begging, you're giving him social attention and a form of reinforcement," he explains. "You can't acknowledge the animal in any way."

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Stand Firm

Expect your dog's begging to get worse before it gets better. If whining at 20 decibels doesn't result in food, he'll think he isn't trying hard enough and turn it up to 40 decibels. As unpleasant as this may be for a few days, stand firm. Eventually, your dog will realize that his efforts no longer work.

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Be Consistent

If you train consistently, you should see positive results within several weeks. Consistency is the key. Even one tiny snack from the table here and there can erase everything you've worked so hard to achieve, Dr. Hunthausen notes. Make sure all family members and dinner guests understand what you're doing and why you're doing it, so no one sneaks your dog a treat when they think you're not looking.

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Try These Tips

Here are a few more tips to stop your canine panhandler:

  • Feed him at the same time you eat. If your dog is enjoying his own food, he can't beg for yours.
  • Give him something else to do. Try sticking some IAMS Biscuits in a few Kong toys so he'll have something to play with while you eat.
  • Put him in another room, or if your dog has been crate-trained, place him in his crate to prevent him from scratching at the door.
  • Take your dog for a long walk just before dinnertime. "If the dog is worn out, the intensity of the begging behavior will decrease," Dr. Hunthausen explains. "Tired dogs are good dogs."

Sometimes you can interrupt annoying tableside behaviors by stomping your foot or striking the table. But remember, your goal is to startle your dog, not to frighten him. Dr. Hunthausen also advises to never strike your dog for begging, as this will not correct the unwanted behavior. Instead, it can result in fear and avoidance, behavioral problems or even aggression.

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To Learn More About Training Your Dog

For more information on the proper feeding habits for your dog, visit our Questions and Answers Section's, Frequently Asked Questions. You'll find answers to many of your most common questions.

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