Have you ever sat down for dinner, only to find Fido ready right next to you? And you know what happens next—he’ll turn the puppy dog eyes on you, whine a little, and perhaps paw your leg in attempts to get you to drop a few scraps. It’s just too much to resist, even though you know you should.
It’s frustrating when you don’t know how to get your dog to stop begging. That’s why we’ve compiled our top five favorite ways to stop this pesky problem.
Why Do Dogs Beg?
How do you know if your dog is begging? It’s pretty unmistakable. When your canine companion stares at you with a hopeful look and perhaps even starts whimpering, that’s begging. Your dog may also beg by pawing, staring, nudging, and barking.
As far as why your four-legged friend does this, the answer is fairly simple: It’s how they communicate. They can’t explicitly tell you that they’d like a bite of the chicken on your plate, so begging is how they get that message across.
Though dogs often beg for food, they may also beg for attention, playtime, toys, treats, or anything else they want more of.
Why Begging is a Negative Behavior
As tough as it can be to hear, begging isn’t inherent. Instead, it’s a learned behavior.
You may have unintentionally taught your dog that it’s okay to insist on what they want by pawing and whining. For instance, if you’ve ever slipped your pup a piece of food off your plate after hearing them whine, you’ve not only taught your dog that begging is okay—you’ve encouraged them to continue doing it.
You shouldn’t respond to this negative behavior with positive reinforcement, as that teaches your dog to continue engaging in those antics to get results.
Remember that your dog’s begging won’t disappear overnight. It takes time to correct this behavior. But don’t worry, there are quite a few ways to learn how to stop a dog from begging.
What to Do When Your Dog Begs
Step 1: Don’t Reward Dog Begging
When a dog begs, it means that they’re asking for attention. But if you give in to whatever your dog is asking for, you’re just asking for more trouble. Anytime you reward your dog’s begging with whatever they’re hoping for, you’re telling them that their whines and howls are effective—and that they should do it again.
“If you keep on giving into his demands, he will continue to [come] back in [the] future as well. On the other hand, if you stop responding to his begging gradually, he will learn that begging doesn’t work,” says Skillshare instructor and pet lover Aman Gupta.
Instead, ignore your dog’s begging and don’t give them what they want. Don’t scold them either, as that just gives them negative attention and ultimately won’t deter their begging.
Step 2: Redirect a Begging Dog
One reason why your dog is begging could be that they’re bored. For that reason, giving your dog some sort of alternative to focus their energy on can help deter begging.
Dogs need both mental and physical stimulation, so provide options to engage their mind and body. Spend time playing together and have toys, chews, and puzzles available to your dog throughout the day.
Step 3: Teach Your Dog Obedience Skills
All dogs benefit from basic obedience skills. Teaching your dog basic commands like “sit” and “stay” will help them to stay in one place (and away from spots you don’t want them to be—like the dinner table).
Commands like “leave it” and “drop it” teach dogs to actively drop or leave objects alone. These commands are really helpful if you drop food on the ground or identify food littered outside that you don’t want your dog to get into. They can even save your dog’s life by preventing them from inhaling poisonous food like chocolate or grapes.
You can teach your dog these commands on your own at home (it just takes practice and repetition) or work with a dog trainer.
Step 4: Reward Your Dog’s Good Behavior
Part of teaching your begging dog some new skills is reinforcing their good behavior. When your dog isn’t actively engaged in begging, you can reward them with a treat. Anytime you notice your dog being good, reward them with something positive—anything from a treat to playtime to pets and cuddles.
However, you don’t want to reward your dog with treats at the dining room table. That will just encourage future begging, so give them their positive reinforcement in another space.
Step 5: Separate Your Dog From the Table
Though it might seem obvious or even overzealous, simply blocking your dog’s access to the table will be enough to stop an eager dog begging for food. Keep your dog away from your eating area with a pet or baby gate, by closing a door, or by placing your dog in a separate room.
You can also deter begging by distracting your dog with a well-timed meal. Try feeding your canine companion at the same time you have dinner.
If your dog is eating too quickly, try giving them a slow feeder that forces dogs to slow their eating. Your dog may still whine, but making this a habit will teach them it’s a normal part of their routine.
That saying about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks isn’t quite true. You can change your dog’s begging behavior and institute some healthy boundaries at snack and meal times. Use these tips, practice patience, and you’ll teach your four-legged friend what is and isn’t acceptable.
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