Begging is one of those annoying behaviours that most dogs exhibit at some point in their lives, and often at the worst times, like when guests are over. But the good news is that it's possible to train your dog out of it, although you'll need to commit time and patience to the cause.
Why do dogs beg?
Begging is a learned behaviour. Unwittingly you’ve taught your dog that begging works, so they repeat the behaviour again and again. It might not have been a situation involving food that triggered it, but maybe a toy your dog wanted you to pick up and play with, or even the giving of affection. Begging comes in many forms, including staring, barking, pawing, nudging, whining and drooling, as well as other over-eager or attention-seeking behaviours.
People assume that giving their dog table scraps or human foods will encourage begging, as they’ll come back wanting more. But actually, it doesn’t matter what you feed your dog, as the begging behaviour will depend on factors like where, when and how they get access to food.
You can still share your food – you just have to do it in a way that outlines the boundaries and reinforces the benefits to your dog of acting in a favourable way.
Tips to stop begging:
- ‘Okay, just this once’ and other similar phrases need putting an end to. Even one small transgression will signal to your dog that begging gets results and be a huge setback. It’s possible that the begging will intensify until your dog gets the message, but eventually he will.
- If you do sometimes share your food, teach your dog that distance brings rewards, so only feed them when they are a suitable distance outside the kitchen/away from the table and not pestering anyone.
- Establish a routine at mealtimes and try to make their dinner time coincide with your own. This will keep your dog occupied and prevent them lurking for table scraps.
- If your dog begs, move them into another room. Eventually they will learn that begging results in being separated from the family, which is usually enough motivation for them to stop.
- Counter-conditioning can also work and involves asking your dog to perform a task that is incompatible with begging, such as lying down or fetching.
- Try to feed your dog in the same place every time. So, if they usually eat their meals in the kitchen, only ever feed them there. This includes treats and any table scraps. If your dog associates a single area with being fed, they are less likely to beg for food outside of it.
Remember that, as with any training, consistency is key. Make sure everyone in the household is aware of the rules and knows not to feed your dog on the sly. As long as everyone is onboard with the training and works together, your dog should quickly learn that begging never brings rewards.
If you have any tips of your own, please share them with our other readers by commenting below.
Written by: Hannah