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How to teach your dog to stop begging for food

No dogs at the table

Has begging for food become an issue with your dog? Perhaps your dog used to be good but things have gotten worse over time. Maybe the problem wasn’t even created by you — but rather by someone else in your household. Perhaps food falling off the table is a result of your disability — as can happen with those who have loss of motor function. Judgement and finger-wagging aside, no dog should beg for food. Especially not Service Dogs. The good news is that with training and consistency, you can correct this problem. Read on to learn how to teach your dog to stop begging for food.

First of all, the key to changing behavior — and this works for children, adults or dogs — is to recognize why the behavior is happening.

Why do dogs beg for food?

Because it’s successful. That is the only reason. If a dog was never successful at getting food from begging it would not perform that behavior. In other words, you or someone else in your house is the problem. Not your dog.

Dogs do not understand “sometimes”

You can’t give your dog food sometimes and then expect them not to beg at other times. This is something where you and everyone else has to be consistent. And being consistent with begging means…

Do not give your dog food at the table. Ever.

Do not give your dog food at the table. Ever. No matter how cute they are. Simply say a firm “no” and then put them into a down-stay and ignore them. Do don’t continue to talk to them or about them.

Do not give your dog food from the counter. Ever.

Dogs learn by associating places — including surfaces — with an action or reward. Treat your kitchen counter the same as the table. If your dog learns that food comes from counters or your table they will continue to hang around and wait for food. Put your dog in a down stay any time you’re handling food.

Food should only come from two places:

  1. From you as a reward for accomplishing something
  2. Their food bowl

What’s the perfect scenario? You got your meal ready. You sit down to enjoy your dinner, and as you do so, your dog immediately goes to his bed and lays down. He stays there until you are finished, sounds perfect, doesn’t it? It’s possible, but once again the key is consistency.

Practice “leave it” from time to time just for fun

Too often, people slide into only using the “leave it” command as an admonishment or correction. However, it’s a good command to use every now and again with treats just for fun in a positive environment. Place small treats on the floor and ask your dog to “leave it” until you say “ok.” As your dog progresses make it more complicated. Extend the time your dog leaves the food for. Try walking away while keeping an eye on your dog.

Ask your dog to sit and wait while you fill their food and water bowls

It’s important to teach your dog that food comes from YOU. Not the table. Not the counter. Not a bowl that magically refills periodically. This practice will help your dog bond with you better and learn to be more polite in the process. Make them sit quietly and watch as you fill their bowl.

Feeding time is also the perfect time to teach the “look at me” command

So your dog is sitting and watching you fill their bowl. Excellent. You have their complete attention — now is the perfect time to reinforce the “look at me command”

  1. After you have filled their bowl, don’t rush to say ok. Make them wait a moment.
  2. Pick up a piece of food (or a treat) and show it to them until they focus on it.
  3. Bring it to your nose, saying “look at me”
  4. Once their eyes lock on yours, give them praise and hand them the food.
  5. Eventually you should be able to do it without food or treat by using a single finger.
  6. The final goal is to teach them to “look at you” by either the hand signal or your voice, interchangeably.

For more information and detailed feedback from a dog trainer, check out Foundation Behaviors or Behavior Analysis & Modification online course at Tromplo!

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