It is fair to say that the average canine can be a master manipulator when it comes to getting food from people, particularly when those other people are outside of your immediate family and may not know about the rules that you have in place for your own dog!
If your dog is apt to beg for food from people that they meet out and about, or will be all too quick to accept a scrap or a snack if someone offers it to your dog without your permission, this can be both annoying and potentially problematic. In this article, we will look at some of the problems that begging or accepting food from other people can cause, as well as the best ways to stop your dog from doing it. Read on to learn more!
There are a great many reasons why your dog begging or accepting food from others is a potential problem, some of which you might not have even considered. While in a perfect world, people would never offer or give a treat to another person’s dog without permission, we all know that this happens very regularly, much as many people will happily approach a strange dog to pet them without asking the owner first if this is ok and if the dog is safe.
If strangers offer treats to your dog or fall for their begging, this will teach your dog that anyone they meet is fair game, and encourage them to approach and beg from people in the future. This leads to bad manners in the dog, and also will possibly mean that your dog intimidates people who are wary of dogs without realising they are doing so.
Added to this, being fed unspecified treats or scraps will soon have a negative effect on your pet’s waistline, and if your dog suffers from a medical condition such as diabetes, can actually prove very dangerous to them. Many human foods are outright toxic or unsuitable for dogs, even aside from being high in empty calories, and non-dog owners and even some dog owners might not realise that foods like an innocent piece of chocolate or a cheese and onion sandwich both contain canine toxins (cocoa and onion respectively).
Finally, a risk that it is to be hoped that no dog owner will ever face but one that is worth mentioning nonetheless, is the possibility that a very small minority of unscrupulous people will actively seek to harm your dog with a food bribe. They might potentially give them something toxic to ingest deliberately, or use a food bribe to lure your dog away and steal them.
If someone is waving a snack at your dog and inviting them to take it, it can be very hard to stop your dog from going ahead, as well as very confusing for your dog, who will be receiving mixed signals from two people at once, both of whom your dog will view as alpha to them.
Training your dog before the situation arises is the best way to deal with this, although it can be a lot more challenging for some dogs than others! When you feed your dog or give them a treat or a toy, teach them that the presence of the reward in front of them is not, on its own, permission to eat or take it. Make your dog wait to take the treat or meal until you give a specific command that you do not use in any other situation, such as “go ahead.”
You can also work with other family members and friends to train your dog to look to you for permission when someone else offers them something, not accepting it until they are told to “go ahead.”
Hopefully then when you are out and about, your dog will check themselves and look to your for permission when someone offers them something to eat.
Hopefully as mentioned, once you have trained your dog, they will pause before taking food from a stranger.
However this is asking rather a lot from your dog, and unless your dog is incredibly responsive at all times, may not work 100% of the time. If you see someone offering or about to offer your dog a treat without your permission, tell them to stop, and if the food is already in rage of your dog, tell the dog “no!” sharply. You can then explain to the owner about the etiquette of offering another person’s dog a treat, find out what they are offering, and decide if you are happy for them to give it to your dog. If you are just a second too late and your dog has already eaten it, find out what the treat was and if it is likely to pose a problem, and politely explain to the well-meaning stranger why this is not appropriate.
Keep some suitable treats to hand at all times to reward your dog if and when they check themselves or reject an offered treat, to reinforce their good behaviour and ensure that they do not feel as if they are losing out.