My dog is constantly begging for food. Now what?
Every dog owner is familiar with the experience of sitting down to a plate of something delicious only to feel the shadow of their pet hovering nearby, tongue lolling. Some dogs might even try to get at your plate directly, and this is particularly annoying for people who enter your home as a guest. Make no mistake: our four-legged friends love anything edible, even if it’s bad for them, like chocolate.
So, what can be done about it? Should you simply accept this as a reality of life with a dog, or are there steps you can take to minimize the disruption and stop the behavior entirely in the long run?
In the article to follow, we’ll unpack some truisms and techniques to keep in mind any time you feel an inquisitive snout burrowing beneath your arm, sniffing in the direction of your food.
Tip #1: Understand what you’re doing when you give your dog food
Food is a reward. And food reinforces the behavior that earned the food in the first place. Any time you give in to your dog as it stands beneath the table begging for a scrap, you’re sending the signal that this behavior is OK. And ten times out of ten, it’s not!
Tip #2: Don’t fall for the eyes
“Puppy dog eyes” is a well-known phrase for a reason. That soulful, sorrowful look you’re getting is designed to tug at your emotions. But wait a second – your dog gets to eat at regular mealtimes too… mornings and evenings at the very least. Does he really need extra?
Tip #3: Ignore your dog completely when he begs for food
When it comes to this bad habit, pay no heed to your furry friend. By giving him no attention whatsoever, you’ll send the message that he’s in the wrong and that he’s not going to get any love. It’ll take some time, but slowly but surely he’ll start to realize that begging doesn’t cut it. Dogs hate nothing more than being ignored.
Tip #4: Use food to reward good behavior
As we’ve talked about in articles prior, food is a powerful motivator for dogs, and it should be used to reward positive behaviors. Just gone for a long walk? A walk in which your dog has behaved impeccably? By all means, lay on the spread. In fact, schedule mealtimes to directly follow on the heels of a bout of exercise. That way your dog will be trained see food as a commodity he’s had to work for.
Tip #5: Keep mealtimes consistent
More than anything, consistency is key. Mealtimes should fall within the same thirty-minute window every day, so have the evening meal come after a long walk, as per the point above. Consistency is also key when it comes to ignoring your dog’s pleas for extra scraps. You can’t make your point clearly if you’re muddying the water by flip-flopping between disciplinarian and dog-pleaser. No means no, so ignore your dog’s pleas.
Tip #6: Make sure guests and other members of your household stay firm too
If begging is a problem, no one in the house should give in to your dog’s demands. It only takes one person to break the cycle and undo all the good work. Through repetition, your dog will slowly learn that begging is not OK.
Tip #7: Remember that it takes time
Only through consistent repetition can you expect to see change. Dogs will rely on behaviors that have netted them rewards in the past, and can be slow to accept the new status quo. If bad behavior continues you can always consider the help of a professional, but try these steps first before you take that plunge.