Why Dogs Beg and How to Get Them to Stop
You just sat down to dinner and just as you are about to take a bite of that nice, juicy steak you notice your dog staring at you like he’s dying of starvation and you never feed him. Do you slip him just one little piece or do you ignore those big brown eyes?
Begging is a habit that most, if not all, dog owners are going to see their dog do at one point or another. Whether or not it continues or you put a stop to it is up to you, but if you don’t, the problem isn’t going to go away by itself. In fact, it’s only going to get worse and could progress from just begging to trying to get the wanted item himself whether you want him to have it or not.
What makes dogs beg?
Would you believe that begging is actually something dogs learn how to do? Puppies learn to beg from the beginning when they do it in order to get their parents to feed them. He who begs and pushes his way to the front gets the majority of the food. The dog that sits back patiently and waits in the wild will probably starve.
You aren’t going to let your pet starve, but when he sees you eating, it makes him want to eat. He will first stare and perhaps whine, and if you ignore him, he may progress to pawing and barking. And since your steak looks a lot tastier than his kibble, you still will probably have to do a bit more training than just trying to ignore him.
Plus, many people teach their dogs to beg so they can get a treat. Your dog may see that is the same thing, except the treat he wants is whatever you are eating. That doesn’t mean you can’t give your dog a treat, just teach him something else to do to earn it besides begging.
For instance, if you want to give your dog a treat, then try this method instead of begging. Hold out your hands in front of your dog with closed fists and a treat in one and the other empty. Don’t give your dog the treat until he is calm and can sit quietly in front of you without begging. Once he has calmed down, open the hand with the treat, give it to him and praise him for waiting. He should quickly learn that he gets the treat if he shows his manners, but if he begs, no treat appears.
Dogs don’t beg just for food. They may also beg for a toy or your attention. It really doesn’t matter; it’s just a behavior he has to show he wants something.
Ways to stop begging
First, don’t give in even that one time or just that one bite will show your dog that he will get what he wants with just a little persistence. This is what happens to most owners. They do it once or twice and then try to ignore the dog, only to give in a few minutes later. The dog learns that if he waits the situation out long enough, then he is going to get what he wants.
One option is to feed your dog at the same time you sit down to eat dinner. That way he will learn that everyone gets to eat at the same time and he may not be so anxious. As long as you don’t show him that your food tastes better, he should be content to be eating at the same time as his “pack members” eat. Dogs like a routine and as long as you feed him at the same time every day, he will learn to expect it and that makes things easier for both of you.
In fact, if from day one you always feed dog food at set times and never give your dog people food or feed him from the table, then you may never even have to worry about begging.
But if you give in even one time in a hundred, then your dog will know that you may do it again, so it’s worth it to him to keep on trying.
Another option is to teach him to go lay down when you eat, then all you have to do is tell him, “Go to your room,” or some similar command he understands. In time, he should realize that you aren’t going to give in and he will automatically go lay down and you can eat in peace. This is a good command in other situations too, like when you want him to wait while you answer the door or some other thing.
It’s very important that your dog understand the meaning of the word, “no.” It’s good not only in this situation, but for many other reasons that could even mean life or death for you, your dog or someone else.
If you have taught your dog basic obedience command like “sit” and “stay.” You can use these to make your pet sit peacefully until you are done eating. Then if you wish, you can give him a treat for his patience. But don’t feed him from your plate. If you choose to give him a small piece of something, be sure to place it in his kibble bowl instead. Better yet, make the treat a dog biscuit so he doesn’t get used to the taste of people food at all.
Other reasons to stop begging
There are other reasons not to give in to your dog’s begging. There are people foods that just plain are harmful to dogs like chocolate or grapes. Both of these can poison a dog if eaten in high enough quantities. Plus, nowadays veterinarians are seeing far more obese pets than ever before as we humans encourage our own bad eating habits onto our dogs. Table scraps are high in fat and calories and just aren’t a good choice for our dogs to eat.
When all is said and done, the main thing is for you to be consistent and to have patience. Make sure the whole family is doing things the same way and not giving in to begging tactics. No matter how hard it is, just ignore those sad, soulful eyes. You know better that your dog isn’t really starving. He just wants you to think he is.
All of us want our dogs to be good members of our family and to do that, he must learn manners just like everyone else. Part of learning those manners is being taught that begging is not polite and that it won’t be tolerated.
Once he has mastered that knowledge, both you and your pet will be much happier.