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Begging at the table - How to manage a begging dog at mealtimes
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Begging at the table - How to manage a begging dog at mealtimes

Dogs
Food & Nutrition

A dog that is apt to beg for food when you are sitting down to your own meals is doing so for one reason only: They have learned that doing this has proven effective, and is likely to gain them a reward. When dogs are young, they are apt to try their luck before they learn their manners, when they are unable to yet make the distinction between good behaviour and bad ones, such as begging.

If you reward begging at the table by giving your dog a scrap, even in an attempt to make them go away, this will soon turn into an ongoing problem, and just one successful plea for a scrap will remain in your dog’s memory for a long time, making them apt to try their luck again and again!

It is also possible that your dog has learned that hanging around the table will garner them dropped scraps of food that find their way down to your dog’s level inadvertently, and while this might not seem to be as much of a problem, the well-mannered dog should not be doing this either!

Begging behaviour is very quickly learned in the dog, either because it has gained them a reward before, or possibly because they have actually learned from observing another dog doing it! This does mean that it should also be well within the reach of the dog owner to re-train their dog away from doing this, but taking away the food reward can make the whole process take rather longer!

In this article, we will look at begging at the table in more detail, and what you can do about it. Read on to learn more.

Identifying begging

Some of the signs of begging are of course obvious: Standing up to get a paw or their head onto the table, actually grabbing at or snapping at food, and barking, whining or pushing at you while you are eating. While a dog that is still and silent but simply staring deeply at you might be easier to ignore, this is also a type of begging, and should not go unchallenged, and especially, should not be rewarded.

Stopping your dog’s table begging

Getting to work curbing the begging behaviour in the first instance can at first make the problem worse, insomuch as your dog may actually act out even more to start with as they do not understand why their prior reward is being taken away or denied. This is likely to be particularly acute if you have fallen into the habit of pitching your dog the odd scrap to make them go away or keep quiet; you must be firm and stop doing this!

So firstly and most obviously, your dog must receive zero reward from begging at the table, and not be given or permitted to take any food or scraps, nor allowed to hoover up under the table during the meal. You must of course get all of the family on board with this, and ensure that your children, should you have any, are not secretly colluding with your dog to get rid of something on their plates that they would rather not eat!

Just one slip-up will take you back to square one in the re-training process, so manage your table and the people around it carefully!

Ways to tackle table begging

As well as removing the potential rewards of begging, there are other options available to you as well. The most obvious of these is to close your dog out of the room while you are eating, or if they are crate trained, send them to their crate.

Feeding your dog their own meal at the same time as you eat yours is another way to both fill them up and take their attention off your meal, but unless you reliably eat at the same times every day and can ensure that you always feed your dog in sync with your own routine, this can actually worsen the issue, as your dog will associate your own food prep and meal with their meal too.

Teaching your dog proper boundaries and good manners is the best way for the long term to resolve begging at the table, and your dog must learn that attention seeking or pushy behaviour gets them nowhere. Because removing a food reward naturally takes longer to achieve a result than something that involves giving a food reward, you can incorporate a treat or scrap into this routine, but very carefully.

Once you have finished your meal and your dog is quiet or has finally quietened down and given up begging, you may wish to give them a scrap or a treat, but ensure that you do this away from the table, so that your dog does not associate the table with their reward.

When your dog whines, begs or otherwise makes a fuss during the rest of the meal, tell them “no” if they are being intrusive, but otherwise ignore them, and ensure that you do not make eye contact with them either. Train your dog to sit away from the table if they remain in the same room as you, and not to sit in anticipation of their final reward!

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