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How to Stop Dog Begging at the Table

Updated on May 7, 2012

Behind a dog begging at a table there is, in most cases, an owner feeding table scraps. It is just as simple as that. If the owner however swears that he has never fed his dog at the table, the possibilities are two: he is either lying to your face, or perhaps, he is a bit of a messy eater, unknowingly dropping occasional small food particles and crumbs, with the end result of luring the dog to the table. Of course, dogs may still beg at the table because of the wafting aromas and alluring sights that draw his attention to you.

Dogs are animals that learn pretty quickly. This comes to us as an advantage when it comes to training our dogs. If we want our dog to sit we know that showing him a treat will get him to sit faster. A dog that sits and earns a treat is working by Skinnerian operative conditioning. The dog indeed ''operates'' by sitting to ''gain '' the treat.

In the same way a dog learns to beg at the table. He has learned that every time he whines while the owner is eating or every time he paws at the owner for a piece of steak, the owner will give up and share part of the meal. The dog, therefore, quickly learns the begging behavior. And the more he does it, with success the more he will feel motivated.

Begging at the table does not have to necessarily mean only pawing for food, barking or whining. Even the simple fact of sitting next to owner ands staring while the owner is eating is a form of begging for food. Undoing, the begging behavior may be difficult once it has allowed to put roots.

American psychologist Edward L. Thorndike knows this well. His law of effect stated that '' Of several responses made to the same situation, those which are accompanied or closely followed by satisfaction to the animal will be more firmly connected with the situation, so that, when it recurs, they will be more likely to recur".

In other words, since begging at the table is accompanied by satisfaction (food being given) the begging behavior will be more likely to recur. A new behavior pattern therefore has been established and eradicating it may take some time, consistency and perseverance. The most important question therefore for owners of begging dogs is ''how to stop my dog from begging?'' A legitimate question indeed.

How to Teach Your Dog to Stop Begging at the Table

Begging at the table may be frustrating over time. When owners decide to stop feeding their dog table scraps at the table, the dog may feel like it needs to exhibit more insistent behaviors in order to get fed. A dog that used to simply stare at the owner eating therefore may start getting inclined to whining or pawing in order to get attention. If the owner gives in, an enormous mistake, the dog will have learned to exhibit more and more insistent behaviors. An vicious cycle has formed and the behavior now is more difficult to undo.

The first step to stop begging behaviors is to stop giving scraps in the first place. This new policy must be observed by ALL family members. Make sure your husband, sister, grandma or kids are all aware of this. Let your guests over for dinner be aware of this too. In order to teach your dog to stop begging keep him away from the table. This will help prevent the dog from running towards the falling crumbs or that piece of broccoli your child is passing under the table to avoid eating those much hated veggies.

It must be remembered that it takes one mistake to have the old behavior to resurface stronger than before. In other words, if you have been good in not feeding table scraps for two weeks, that day where you will feel more vulnerable and likely to give in to those pleading eyes, the dog will go back to its begging antics more determined than before.

So what are the solutions to stop a dog from begging? A good idea would be to crate the dog at table time. If this option seems too drastic, then another option is teaching the dog to ''go to his place''. Place a blanket on the floor and let your dog lay down there until you are done eating dinner. Then release your dog from the stay and feed your dog.

Some people find it helpful to simply feed their dogs while they dine. This may help but it may not solve the root of the problem if your dog eats fast and then goes straight to the table asking for more. It is best, therefore, to teach dogs to respect your boundaries. The table should be off limits during dinner time or if you still want the dog close-by, the dog should learn that pushy behaviors give nothing. Ignore your dog when he whines, paws at you or barks asking for food and re-direct him to his place. When you are done eating and your dog is quiet and almost seems like he has given up, put some food on his mat. Your dog will learn to patiently wait for his turn to eat, and because he is being fed on the mat he will be more likely to stay there at meal time. Best of all, you will reward him for calm, non-pushy behaviors, which ultimately means, reinforcing non-begging behaviors.


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    • chardee42 profile image

      chardee42 7 years ago from Orlando, FL

      We found it helpful to teach our dog, "out of the kitchen". After a number of practice sessions, he'll go out of the kitchen and lie down in the next room.