Teaching a dog not to ask for food at the table is one of the basic points in good dog education. In this post I explain what I do with my dog to avoid begging while we eat.
Teaching a dog not to beg for food is essential
Having a dog whimpering while we eat, or looking at us with a plaintive face, or even trying to reach our plate with its snouts, is a serious canine education problem.
It may not bother us to have our dog begging, but surely someday guests will come to our home and the situation will become uncomfortable.
For a dog, waiting anxiously for someone to give him food from the table is unnecessary suffering.
It is always better to prevent a behavior problem than having to solve it once it has already appeared. In this case, prevention is fundamental.
The norm is apparently simple but, on the other hand, many people skip it to the bullfighter:
The main thing when it comes to teaching a dog not to ask for food is never to give it to him. In this way, it will never generate the expectation of receiving it and, therefore, it will not ask for it.
This advice that is so obvious and so simple is, however, very difficult to apply. And the reason is the inconsistency between family members (some give food to the dog at the table and others do not), between external visits (guests who succumb to the insistence of the dog) and our own inconsistency (we always end up doing some exception and give something to the dog from the table).
Therefore, the three basic pillars of prevention when teaching a dog not to eat food from a dining table are :
- Prohibition: NEVER give (never!) Food to the dog at the table.
- Family consensus: we must make sure that no member of the family skips the norm.
- Instructions to guests: It is necessary to explain to all the guests that it is absolutely forbidden to give food to the dog at the table and to make sure that they comply with the rule.
What to do if prevention failed you
In 99.9% of cases, prevention fails because someone ends up giving something to the dog from the table. If this is your case, I propose an exercise to solve the problem. It’s what I do with my dog ??… and it works!
First of all, you have to understand one thing: it is normal for a dog that only eats feed to feel attracted to our food. Obviously, our menu is more succulent and less boring. Therefore, in some cases of dogs extremely motivated by food and with little self-control before it, some experts recommend switching to a homemade diet as part of the therapy to solve the problem. However, this is not always possible and does not necessarily have to be recommended.
Secondly, we must bear in mind that a hungry dog will always be more difficult to control than a sated dog. Therefore, it is advisable to feed him before eating.
There is a myth that, if the dog eats before, we will be at risk of losing our leadership because, in the wolf packs, the leaders eat before and the others afterwards. As I say, it is a myth .
Exercise to keep the dog calm and away from the table while we eat
If a dog asks for food at the table insistently and we need a solutionto keep it quiet and away from the diners, we can do the following:
We will explain to the dog, “in his language”, that if he stays still and calm in the place we indicate, he will receive the prize he expects (a piece of our food). If, on the other hand, he approaches the table, he will not get any reward and, in addition, he will get a reprimand.
We will follow these steps:
- 1- Choose a place about three or four steps away from the table, where the dog can lie down and quiet and nobody bothers him. Let’s try not to be a place of passage.
- 2- Place the dog’s blanket, mattress or cushion there so that he understands where we are going to ask him to lie down.
- 3- Whenever our dog comes to the table to ask for food, we will say “No” and redirect him to his blanket. For this, we can guide him with a prize of less value than what we are eating (something he likes but not as much as what is on our plate) and, when we get to the bed, we will ask him to sit down and lie down. Once lying down, we will give you a piece of food from our plate that we will have previously picked (if not, we run the risk of our dog getting up to follow us when we go to look for it at the table).
- 4- Repeat this exercise as many times as necessary until the dog understands, with a simple gesture, that he should go to his blanket and wait there until he receives the “big prize”.
- 5- If the dog gets up, we will put it back on his blanket but without giving him any prize. We will not chastise him either. We will simply accompany you back to your blanket.
Now we will have to move on to the next phase of the exercise, which consists in increasing the dog’s permanence in his blanket. That is to say, to ensure that he does not stand up and wait for the prize patiently, every time for a longer time.
- 6- Once we get the dog to lie on his bed without getting up, we will return to the table and, immediately, we will take another succulent prize if it stays in place. Again, if you get up early, we will redirect you without rewarding you.
- 7- Now it is a matter of extending the time of the delivery of the prize a little more each time. In this way, we will be teaching you that you will only receive prizes when you remain in the position we asked for and in the right place.
- 8- Progressively, we will increase the waiting time more and more.
- 9- Above all, we will NEVER give food from our table to the dog if it is not in his blanket.
- 10- Once we are clear that the dog has understood what we asked, we will begin to remove the blanket and place it a little further away from the table and the diners.
If this exercise is practiced consistently, the results are very positive. In a few days or weeks, the dog learns to lie in its place and not beg while we eat. It is a good solution to avoid asking for food.
What if the problem is that the dog steals food from the table?
Another frequent problem is that of those dogs that steal food from the table. In these cases, the only solution is well-applied punishment something that is very difficult and supervision.
Faced with the complexity of applying a punishment correctly, my recommendation is to increase supervision and, above all, try not to leave our food available to our dog that we do not want to eat.