We’ve all experienced it at one time or another. That face… those sad, puppy dog eyes...and the long strand of drool hanging from his chin. We love our dogs as another member of the family, and can’t handle that pathetic look, so we give in. Now, we’ve created a monster! Every meal, every day, this situation repeats itself. It was cute the first couple of times, but now he’s full grown, and it is embarrassing when guests come for dinner. Plus, feeding certain people foods can be dangerous to his health! Not only can it quickly lead to obesity, but many foods that we love are toxic to dogs and can cause severe intestinal and neurological problems.
So, now what?
First of all, you need to decide what your expectations are, and make sure all family members are on the same page. Can Fido be in the same room or does he need to be out of sight while you’re eating? Can he lay at your feet or does he have to lay a certain distance away? Decide what’s acceptable, and then be consistent. Everyone needs to be on board with the training. If you’ve decided “absolutely no human food and then little Jimmy slips him something under the table, you are back to square one…. Only it’s harder the next time around! Once you’ve set the boundaries …. Here are some tips.
EXERCISE – A tired dog is a good dog! Exercise your dog before each meal. If he’s exhausted, he’ll be too busy sleeping to beg for food. Take him walking along the trail. Or better yet, a play date at his favorite Minnesota dog boarding facility!
COORDINATE – Try to coordinate your meal time with his. He’ll be busy eating while you’re sitting down for dinner. You can make his meal last longer by feeding him from a Kong or a food puzzle.
SEPARATE – If you don’t want him begging, the easiest solution is to remove him from the room. You can separate him by using a gate in in the doorway or putting him in his crate (do not crate him if he has not been properly crate trained). You can also teach him to lay in a designated area, like on a dog bed or blanket, away from the table. Separating him is a good idea if you have small children. If they drop a morsel on the floor and he is right there to grab it, then he’s been unintentionally rewarded.
DISTRACT – If you don’t require him to stay in a specific spot, you can distract him. Give him a special chew, a bone, a filled Kong or a treat filled food puzzle. He’ll be too busy with his special treat, and he won’t care about what’s going on at the dinner table.
IGNORE – Any attention, even if it’s negative, is attention. Don’t look at him. Don’t talk to him. Do not acknowledge him in any way! To make it easier for you and your family, make it a rule that you can’t even talk about him. If you look at him while he’s begging, you’ve unintentionally rewarded his begging behavior.
CONSISTANCY - If you feed him different foods each meal, or add your food to his, he may stop eating his regular food because he’s holding out for something better! Feed him the same food, at the same time, every day.
BE PATIENT! It’s very likely that the behavior is going to get worse before it gets better. Particularly if you’re trying to break an already existing behavior. He knows that it’s worked before, so all he needs to do is work harder to achieve what he wants. Stay strong and keep ignoring him.
DON’T TEMPT HIM! Be careful not to try to teach him by tempting or encouraging him to take food and then discipline him when he tries to take it. The only thing you will teach him by doing this, is that he shouldn’t take food when you’re looking.
DON’T GIVE IN! If you give in just one time, you’ve trained him that his begging works!