A few of your most valuable clients are coming into town and you’ve decided to have them over for dinner. It’s a great idea because you’ve been meaning to discuss their accounts with them and dinner will give you a prime opportunity to make more money. So you set the date, ask your wife to prepare her famous vegetable soup and you clean your house from top to bottom. Then the big day arrives and everyone settles down around the table to eat. Things seem to be going well until an obnoxious whining erupts from under the table. You lift up the table cloth and discover, to your embarrassment, that your dog feels that he deserves some vegetable soup, as well. This behavior is known as begging and you must find a way to stop it.
Teaching your dog to stop begging can be difficult because — whether you realize it or not — you were the one who taught it to him in the first place. All of those relaxed family dinners that involved throwing leftovers under the table taught your dog that he deserves people-food just as much as you do. Since you unknowingly taught your dog this behavior, it will be hard to correct, and might involve a few wildly unpleasant dinners before he gets the picture.
The first step you must take in teaching your dog to stop begging is to remove him or her from the situation. When you and your family are having dinner — or breakfast or lunch — keep the dog in another room, If your kitchen features doors, close them, but if not, you might have to lock your dog in the laundry room or in the backyard. Simply ignoring him at the table might make dinner time so unpleasant that no one winds up with an appetite. Further, removing your dog from the dinner room will speed up the process.
One of the main problems with this situation is that your dog will probably know what’s going on and might try what I’ve come to call “remote begging”. Whether he’s in the backyard looking in through the window or shut up in the laundry room, he can still whine and howl with the best of them, interrupting your family’s conversation. There are a few ways you can stop this while still teaching your dog not to beg.
First, you might consider feeding your dog at the same time the family eats. This gives the dog something to do and encourages him to focus on his own food. Further, feeding him at the same time reinforces the fact that begging is not acceptable. If you don’t want to feed him at the same time your family as meals, you might purchase a rawhide chew bone or another treat or toy to keep your dog occupied. This will stop his begging faster than simply removing him from the kitchen or dining room.
The most important thing to remember about teaching your dog not to beg is that you can’t ever feed him from the table. One slip can set back the process by weeks or even months and your inconsistency will confuse the dog. If you reward his begging, you can’t punish him for continuing the behavior. If he thinks he’ll be rewarded for his begging, the behavior will continue unabated.
This process will be frustrating for the entire family — and maybe even a little heartbreaking — but you’ll be far happier with a well-mannered dog that doesn’t beg. Further, you won’t have to worry about leaving food out on the table or counter because you’ll have taught your dog that people-food isn’t for him. If you want to give him leftover steak or a piece of hamburger, only feed him those types of foods in his own dish so he knows that it’s for him.