Anyone with a dog knows how motivated they are by food. The mention of feeding can send some into a frenzy of excitement. Enticed by the aromas wafting through your home, they can’t resist wanting to have some of whatever you’re having too. However, it can be extremely off-putting for owners to have their dribbling dog sat in front of them when they’re trying to eat, with a pleading expression on their face. There are a few ways this behaviour can be addressed.
What to avoid
Firstly, don’t give your dog any food off your plate. Not only can this encourage further begging, but it may have a detrimental effect on their weight and health. Some human foods are unsuitable for dogs so unless you know for certain they are fine, don’t let them have any. Giving your dog food off your plate can also be confusing, as they will not understand why you’re offering it to them yet telling them off for begging for it.
Furthermore, it is a way for your dog to attempt to assert their dominance. They will interpret your feeding them as surrendering to their dominant presence, which will encourage them to persist and can prove dangerous when aggression is involved.
Giving your dog attention, even by shouting, may encourage them to beg further. Instead you should ignore them, demonstrating that such behaviour will not warrant it. If they bark or whine, think about whether or not to confine them to another area of the room or house.
What to do
Reducing the amount of contact your dog has with you during meal times is one way to go about this. However, some people feel that shutting them in a different room or in their crate is cruel, and can elicit continuous barking. Alternatively, a child safety gate could be used to confine your dog, so they can still see you despite the restricted access. However, your dog may begin to bark or whine in frustration, and they might still sit there staring at your food and dribbling, albeit from a distance.
Training your dog to go to and remain in a specific area when meals are served is another way of preventing begging. Praise them for staying in their designated area, and redirect them back if they move whilst you are eating. Always take a firm approach with your dog in such situations, and do not give in as they will think their persistence will eventually pay off. Distracting your dog is another way of deterring the behaviour. Give them a toy to play with or chew, thereby taking their mind off your meal.
Feeding your dog before or at the same time you eat will diminish their desire for food, therefore making them less likely to beg.
Begin your training from the moment you bring your dog home. The longer a habit is left to develop and fester, the more difficult it can be to eradicate. A dog will not understand why they are being punished for behaviour they have been able to get away with for a long time.
Although it may be difficult to stop your dog from begging, persistence will make the problem easier, eventually enabling it to disappear entirely. Outline from the start what the rules are regarding food, and maintain them to prevent confusion.
If your dog is extremely persistent and you are concerned about their behaviour, consult your vet or a behaviourist.
Insuring your pet is another way you can protect them. Animal Friends offer a range of policies for you to choose from.