Your dog looks up at you with those big eyes and you think “How Cute!” Until the next second when he has jumped onto the table or your lap and stolen your food. Begging is a doggie art form and most are masters of the craft. But for us humans it’s annoying and can be dangerous if they are constantly underfoot trying to get food, or they eat something toxic.
Luckily, with just a little work, you can stop the begging.
Like most behaviors your dog does, managing them so they can’t practice the unwanted ones while you are training them is important for begging.
THE NUMBER ONE THING YOU MUST DO: make sure NO ONE gives your dog even the tiniest morsel for begging. If they do, they will derail all your training. Make sure everyone in the house knows the rules – if Buddy is begging, he gets NOTHING.
Ignore him instead.
Make sure anyone who comes to your house knows the rules as well, especially kids.
Remove him during meal times. Before he has learned to not beg, avoid any temptation to give in to that adorable little face by putting him in his crate or in another room. Feed him his dinner at the same time, or give him something to chew on or a favorite toy. This is not punishment! So make sure your dog does not think it is. Then, after your peaceful meal, you can let him out.
Keep food out of reach. Another part of begging is stealing food. Your dog will sit and stare at you and as soon as you turn your attention away from your food and onto, say the TV, your dog will snatch at your plate, thus rewarding himself for his hard work. Avoid this by not having food at his level while he is in training.
If you have a young child, keep the dog out of the room while he is being fed. Kids in high-chairs are jackpots to your dog – they always throw something on the floor.
There are several things you can teach your dog to prevent or interrupt begging.
Leave it. Leave it is great for when your dog forgets that he is not supposed to beg (or steal!) and goes for your lap, the table, or your dish. Practice with something easy like his own kibble at first, and then work up to the steak.
Off. If you have a dog that tends to jump in your lap while you are trying to eat, or they are can reach the table with their front paws, “Off” will become your best friend. Teach your dog “Off” and also reward him with praise of his own treats (not food from the table!) when he makes the choice to keep all four paws on the floor.
Go to the Mat. This is one of the best behaviors to stop begging altogether. The Mat is a conflicting behavior, making begging impossible. So, if your dog has a rock-solid mat stay, they can’t possible come up to you and beg at the same time. Place the mat in the same room if you like, so your dog can still be part of the family during meal times (and so you can keep an eye on him).
I knew a dog trainer that had seven dogs, and all seven of them would wait patiently on their mats until she was done eating. Their reward? They got what was left on her plate for being good and not bothering her. Start with an easy mat-stay when you are not eating, and gradually build up to a food-laden tables.
Do not forget to reward your dog after you have eaten with a treat or play session.
Out. If your dog tries to get food from you while cooking, thus staying underfoot and tripping you, or jumping at hot pans, teach your dog that the Kitchen is a “no go” zone. You can teach your dog to respect that invisible barrier and just not enter the kitchen, (an “out” cue would be used if he broke that barrier) or you can use a mat stay outside the kitchen.
Ignoring the Begging
Remember, the most important thing is to not reward him when he does beg. Giving him a treat or attention will just reinforce the behavior. So if he does break his mat-stay, or does not respond to “off,” simple get up from the table and remove him from the room, without saying anything to him. He will learn that he does not get to be with the family at all if he practices this rude behavior.
About the Author
Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.