By Karen A. Soukiasian
Almost every dog owner has to deal with dog begging, a two-headed monster that most dogs have to battle.
The first head is nature. The second is nurture.
But with work and training, you can stop dog begging.
Begging is an inherent instinct.
Puppies learn to beg from the day they are born. When puppies whimper and cry for food, mom rewards them with a full belly.
It doesn’t take long for a pup to learn that certain behaviors have rewards.
As they get a bit older, they have to compete with equally hungry siblings “hunting” at the community food bowl. The dominant pups deem they are entitled, and greedily gobble up as much of the good stuff as possible. The ones lower on the totem pole learn to scavenge for bits and pieces the others have dropped, or they whine and cry until their human makes sure they are fed.
They promptly become conditioned: I cry, and look sad, I get fed. Thinking we are just nurturing our pet, we don’t suspect we are being manipulated when we respond to their pathetic plea for food. We are guilty of reinforcing and rewarding the inappropriate behavior of dog begging. Who hasn’t slipped their pet a little something now and then? But now’s the time to stop dog begging.
Dogs learn by consistency and association… if they associate they can work us, and dog begging is rewarded; they will become shameless, belligerent beggars! If you are consistent with not giving in, eventually, they will give up!
It should be noted, that dog begging is not only bad manners. Begging can lead to more assertive and possibly aggressive behavior. It is not unheard of for a dog that has been allowed or even encouraged to beg, to become food aggressive.
Another problem with dog begging… whom among us doesn’t have a well-meaning or else obstinate friend or relative, who refuses to respect the rule. Blink, and you will find them slipping a tasty tidbit to your mooch of a pooch! You may possibly have to train them too!
Stop dog begging: Don’t wait
1. Don’t make the problem worse by ignoring or encouraging it. Deal with it now!
2. Feed your dog before you eat. A puppy or dog with a full belly will be less apt to beg.
3. Make House Rule #1 – Absolutely no feeding from the table, or whenever you eat.
Stop dog begging: Don’t let guests break the rules
4. Inform guests, feeding from the table, or whenever the dog begs is not allowed in YOUR house. Period! If they don’t follow your rule, don’t invite them for dinner… people learn by association, too!
5. Restrict your dog’s access to the dining area during mealtime. This is especially true if you have small children. It doesn’t take long for your dog to learn, hanging around a kid who is eating, is like finding a treasure chest of goodies. Kids more often than not, leave more of their meal on the floor than in their bellies. When everyone is done eating, invite the dog in to vacuum. Only then, is it “finders keepers.”
Stop dog begging: Set limits
6. Train your dog wait until you are finished eating if you opt to feed your dog table scraps. The reward for not bothering you during your meal, will be a few delicious odds and ends. Make sure it is served away from the table or counters… preferably placed in their food bowl. Anytime they beg while you are eating, there is no reward, not a single table snippet.
7. Sign up for a positive reinforcement, punishment-free Puppy Kindergarten or obedience class. You will learn the leadership skills you need to exhibit your authority, and your dog will learn deference to it. Once your dog learns commands such as “stay,” “down,” “away,” or “place,” mealtimes will become more pleasant.
Stop dog begging: Don’t feel guilty
8. Don’t feel guilty. Ignore them! Some dogs could win an Oscar for their persuasive performance. You know they aren’t starving! Don’t let them control you!
9. No free lunch! Never waste an opportunity for a training experience. Make your puppy or dog work for and earn that scrap… give a command; make them follow through. If they really want it, they’ll work for it.
10. Finally, a unique trick to discourage dog begging from the table; offer them only foods you know your dog does not like. Since they learn by consistency and association, they will figure the stuff in their bowl is more appetizing than the stuff you’re eating!
Bottom line: Dog begging is one of the easiest behavior problems you can modify. Stop dog begging by not letting it ever start. Don’t tolerate any begging from your dog or let any people who eat at your house encourage it. Be fair, firm and consistent. Your puppy or dog will soon learn to not beg. Your dog will learn begging doesn’t succeed and instead, patience and appropriate behaviors have their rewards … after you eat!
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