How to Teach Your Dog to Stop Begging for Food

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You might think it's cute when your dog begs for food, but friends and family members might not find that behavior as endearing as you when you invite them over for dinner. Unfortunately, while many dog owners understand that this behavior is inappropriate, they inadvertently exacerbate the problem by giving in.

That's understandable—you want your dog to be happy, and nothing it seems makes him happier than being treated like other members of your family, getting his share of family meals.

Step one is to make a commitment to change. You can't fix a problem if you don't first acknowledge it. If you want to change your dog's behavior and stop him from begging for food, you need to first decide, firmly, that you'll take the necessary steps to enable real change. 

Here are 5 ways you can stop your dog from begging for scraps from the dinner table:

1. Stop the Problem Before It Starts

Dogs learn how to behave while they're still puppies. If you've recently welcomed a young dog, take the steps necessary to prevent the problem before it starts. For example, you can put up a baby gate to keep your dog in another room while you and your family are eating, or crate him during meals. 

You could, alternately, give him a favorite toy or chew bone to play with at the same time you set your meal on the table. Finally, you can tether your dog using a short leash attached to a piece of furniture (making sure he doesn't endanger himself by getting his leash tangled). 

2. Teach Your Dog the "Stay" Command

Although confining your dog during meals is a reasonable solution, it's not as effective in the long run as teaching him to control his own behavior. One of the best ways to do that is by teaching him the "stay" command, something which will also be effective in other situations in which you need to control his behavior (like when he wants to run to the door and bark at visitors). 

Tell him firmly (but gently) to "stay" in a designated spot. Reward him for doing so. Never punish him for not doing so. Gradually, he'll understand what it is you want him to do, including staying on his bed or other spot while you, family and friends are eating.

3. Don't Give In

Dogs won't learn if you give them mixed messages, and they're extremely skilled at getting what they want by playing on our love and sympathies (they've learned this behavior through thousands of years of domestication and interaction with humans). If you give in when they whine or bark or stare pitifully at you while you're eating, you've just taught them an important lesson: when you whine, bark or plead when you want food, you'll get what you want!

4. You Don't Need to Withhold "Human Food"

Dogs don't learn to beg simply because you give them human food. In fact, some of those foods, like small bits of chicken or cheese, can be an extremely effective way of promoting effective training and good behavior. It's not the food that causes the begging—it's the circumstances in which that food is introduced.  The trick is to not reward your best friend with those human foods when he's begging for them at mealtime. 

GOOD READ: 8 Human Foods That Are Dangerous for Dogs

5. Don't (Ever) Yell at Your Dog

If you feel the need to resort to raising your voice or speaking to your dog in an aggressive manner to gain his compliance, frankly, he's not the one with the problem—you are. If that sounds a bit harsh, keep in mind that dogs only understand what you as their leader make clear to them. 

Yelling won't create the behavior you want to see—arguably, it makes achieving your training goals less likely, because all you're really doing is confusing him, and making him unhappy. To help him understand what you're asking him to do (which is all he really wants), be calm, firm, even-tempered and persistent.  Eventually, he'll get it. 

"Yelling at your dog for #begging will only serve to confuse him and make him unhappy—two things that won't help make him stop." TWEET THIS

When your dog doesn't do what you want him to do, and especially if his bad behavior is on display in front of guests in your home, it can be frustrating and embarrassing. You need to remember, however, that he only knows what you teach him, and his inability to learn is more a reflection of something you're doing wrong than a problem with him. The good news is that you can learn effective training techniques which will lead to a happier life for both you and your dog.

At South Boston Animal Hospital, we care about you and your dog's happiness. If you're seeking advice and guidance, contact us today.