Pugs are instantly recognisable and very popular among UK dog lovers – in fact, they are the UK’s third most popular breed overall. This means that thousands of pug puppies are bred each year to meet the growing demand, and knowing how to manage, train and care for a pug is something any prospective owner should learn about in detail before making a purchase.
Pugs are comical, very affectionate, friendly and generally nice to have around, as they have kind tempers and tend to be quiet and well behaved within the home. However, like most dog breeds, pugs think with their stomachs, and are very opportunistic about getting fed, traits that begin to manifest in pups from an early age.
Scavenging and begging behaviour can be problematic for dogs of all types, and managing a pug’s weight is an important part of ownership. Pugs are naturally quite rounded in shape, and can gain weight and become obese quite easily, not helped by the fact that they are small dogs. Carrying too much extra weight can cause or worsen pug health problems, and of course, some of the things your pet might beg for or scavenge may be harmful to them too.
This is why it is important to curb and manage begging and scavenging behaviour in your pug puppy from the outset, and teach them not to beg or go looking for food that isn’t meant for them. In this article, we will explain how to identify signs of begging and scavenging – and manage your responses to it – when your pug puppy is young, and how to correct and divert such behaviour. Read on to learn more.
As mentioned, all dogs will naturally beg and scavenge, regardless of breed. Dogs are highly motivated by food and very opportunistic about it, and this is an evolutionary trait that remains strong in our domestic pet dogs, because it was inherent to their survival throughout their history.
In the wild, dogs find food to support life by a combination of both hunting and scavenging – and where possible, dogs will take the easy option and scavenge, where resources are available.
Today and within a domestic environment, this behaviour is neither necessary nor helpful – and can be harmful, because dogs aren’t very discerning about what they eat, and are apt to eat things that may be bad for them. Dogs also tend to eat well past the point of fullness when resources are available, as an evolutionary response to potential scarcity to come. In domestic dogs, this leads to weight gain ad obesity.
First of all, keep food that should be off the menu for your dog out of their reach – out of sight is out of mind! With pugs this is easier than it is for many larger breeds, because it is less challenging to keep things out of your dog’s line of sight and attention by putting food on worktops or tables that your dog can’t get up to.
However, dogs can be quite enterprising about finding a meal and may use chairs or other furniture to get up to a table or counter, or even push over a bin to get to what’s inside! Out on walks, pugs are also apt to find and home in on all sorts of scraps – like bread thrown for birds, dropped scraps, and even roadkill.
Keep your pug close and always in sight of you when out on walks, and keep them on a lead where necessary. If your pug is an adept scavenger and seems to be able to find food even when you’ve already checked the coast is clear, you may need to muzzle them to keep them from eating anything they find.
However, physically removing temptations and managing your dog’s access to food they shouldn’t have is only the beginning. You also need to train your pup from a young age not to beg, scavenge, or eat things that are not expressly meant for them, and the earlier you begin this the more successful you will be.
When it comes to a puppy who begs at the table or when you are eating, avoid eye contact, don’t let your pup jump up or push physically into your space when eating, and establish a command for “no” or “leave it” to tell your pup to back off.
One of the challenges of training pugs out of begging and scavenging is that food provides its own reward, and convincing your pup to leave this in favour of following your directions is not always easy.
Substitute the food reward with a treat your dog can have, like a toy or some fuss when they behave well – and to keep them looking to you for direction, and so that you can catch their attention if they smell something tasty.
If you shut your pup out of the room when you eat, give them a treat when you remove them from the room, and do not respond to whining or barking to be let back in. If you close your pug out as soon as they start making a fuss but allow the to remain until this point, over time they will build up memory pathways that let them know that barking and begging mean banishment, and this may happen quite quickly if you start when your pup is young.
When your pup behaves nicely without begging or scavenging, give them praise and a treat at the end.
As mentioned, a “no” or “leave it” command is an essential part of any dog’s repertoire, and the pug is no exception. This command can be used for food and other things too, and should be one of the first commands you teach to your dog.
It’s never too early to start teaching your dog boundaries, rules and commands, and it is particularly important to start as you mean to go on with a new puppy, as it will confuse them to change the rules later on when they have begun to settle in, which can set back their progress.
Managing and correcting begging or scavenging is something you will need to reinforce and maintain throughout your dog’s life – but beginning with your new pup is the best way to make things easier for the duration of your dog’s life.