If you have a dog who likes to beg for food, then you’re definitely not alone.
Begging behavior is a very common problem for many dog owners, but it’s also possible to transform the behavior in a relatively short time frame, just as long as you employ a few effective tactics and commit to applying them consistently.
Of course, one of the hardest aspects of the begging behavior is having the determination to follow through with the training consistently, no matter how much your dog uses those doe-eyes to persuade you!
In this guide, we’re going to explain how this behavior usually forms, as well as show you a few techniques that should give you quick results, so let’s get started.
A Learned Behavior
One of the most interesting things about the begging behavior is that it isn’t always a natural instinct for dogs. While most animals can display some degree of begging behavior for food and other important resources, cases of dog’s begging are usually learned from interaction with humans over time.
Ultimately, this fact is very good news because it means there are several things you can do to reduce the occurrences of the behavior. In fact, it’s often something that owners accidentally teach their dogs, and before you know it, your dog persistently begs for food. But with a few tweaks to your usual routine, you may be able to make quick and positive progress.
How It Starts
It usually starts in a subtle way, when you or a family member shares some food from their plate with an ever-so-delighted dog. Or it can be even more subtle, such as letting your dog finish leftovers from your own plate, or simply letting your dog lick the plate clean after you’ve eaten, which begins to teach your dog that your food can also be their food.
Before long, they will be eagerly anticipating your dinner time as well as their own, and they’ll learn how to beg when you haven’t given them any scraps yet. It’s worth noting that food rewards are highly motivating for your dog (which is why treats are used so frequently for positive reinforcement training) so it’s easy to see how you could be inadvertently teaching your dog to beg every single day.
Is My Dog Begging Because They’re Hungry?
If your dog is already well-fed, then you can rest assured that they aren’t starving and they don’t need to eat your food as well as their own! In fact, sharing human food with your dog can often be detrimental in the long run, as your dog’s nutritional requirements aren’t quite the same as yours, and many things that humans regularly eat can be quite hazardous for dogs.
Be Strong & Ignore The Behavior
Although it can be irritating to have a dog who whines or begs for food, it’s vitally important to ignore the begging. If you give in too early just to make the problem go away, then you’ll often pay for it later, because your dog will learn that enough persistence gives them what they want.
It’s wise to ignore the begging entirely, which means no talking, no touching, and no form of acknowledgment at all. Ignoring your dog when they’re begging can be difficult at first, especially if you’re used to giving in and sharing your food, but it’s the only way they’ll learn. Whoever is more stubborn will win this game, so the tough love approach is often the most beneficial in the long run, for both you and the long-term health of your dog.
Keep in mind that if your dog is well-fed, there’s no chance that they’re going to starve, especially not in the 30 minutes it takes you to eat your own meal. So no matter the tricks your dog tries, you can’t give in, unless you want to problem to continue (or become worse over time).
Feed Your Dog At The Same Time
A useful way to distract your dog from begging when you’re eating is to simply feed them at the same time. Of course, this doesn’t mean to share your own food, but rather to give them their own meal in their own food bowl.
Feeding them at the same time should help to keep them occupied and distracted, but if it doesn’t work, then make sure the food bowl is in a different room entirely so your own meal can no longer serve as a tempting distraction.
You could also try feeding them before you eat, especially if you have the kind of dog who only begs when they’re not already full. If they’re full after eating their own meal, then their begging behavior may be drastically reduced in some cases, and they’ll be better behaved.
Of course, some dogs may still be inclined to beg even after they’ve been fed (especially if they’ve learned that it leads to more food and treats!)
Provide A Distraction
Alternatively, you can give your dog some form of distraction which can help to keep them occupied while you’re eating. A great way to do this is to use a treat-stuffed toy such as a Kong toy, which will not only occupy your dog’s attention, but it’ll also satisfy their desire for treats without resorting to eating table scraps that may not be healthy for them to begin with.
There’s no need to yell at your dog or punish them for begging, but a firm command to “lie down” or “leave it” should help to teach them that the begging behavior is unacceptable and won’t lead to the positive result they desire, especially if they’re already familiar with these commands.
However, it’s important not to “yell” or get too over-animated when you give this command, because your dog may learn to enjoy the attention, making the problem more likely to occur in the future.
If your dog is already crate trained, then it can be useful to give the command to go to the crate or go to their own bed. The added benefit is that your dog will be away from the dinner table as well, which helps to counter the food scent distraction.
Involve The Entire Family
If you’re going to overcome begging behavior then you’ll need your friends and family on your side. If someone is still sneakily feeding the dog under the table, then your dog will simply learn to beg from this person instead. Giving your dog mixed messages will hamper your dog’s learning, and it may sabotage your efforts entirely.
While it can fun to play the robin hood character and feed the dog when nobody notices, your family needs to realize that this is counter-productive overall, and it isn’t good for your dog either.
Being consistent is very important, and any slip up can undo the hard work you’ve already put into training your dog, so it’s vital to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Reward Good Behavior
Teaching your dog to no longer beg doesn’t mean you can’t give them the occasional leftover as a treat. But it’s important to do it in the right way, on your terms.
A good way to reward good behavior is to give them a leftover treat after you’ve finished your meal and make sure you have put it in their bowl first, so they learn that their own food is to be eaten from their own bowl and if the food is on your plate, then the food is still yours.