It’s dinner time and before you’ve managed to get your bums on seats, your dog appears out of nowhere and starts whining for food. The longer he goes without getting anything, the longer he barks until someone gives in just to shut him up. Congratulations! You successfully taught your dog constant begging gets him what he wants and there’s no chance he’s stopping…at least not on his own.
The first step to getting a dog to stop begging for food is for you, and everyone else in your household to agree, from now on your dog is never fed from the table. No exceptions, no one slipping him scraps. Yes it will be noisy, but with the helpful tips you’ll find here you can, once again, be enjoying quiet get togethers.
Why it’s bad to feed your dog table scraps
♦ Responding to barking (unless he’s sick or trying to warn you about a danger) encourages bad behavior. You are teaching him barking gets him what he wants, so he will keep barking longer and louder when you don’t comply because he knows you will eventually give in.
♦ Human food can often be too fatty for dogs (and many times for us as well!), and there’s a real risk your dog will develop pancreatitis. It is painful and can be deadly.
♦ Some human foods are sweetened with a sugar substitute known as Xylitol, which can cause vomiting, lethargy, seizures and even death.
♦ Table scraps, combined with your dog’s regular daily diet and treats can cause weight gain. With 55.8% of dogs in America classed as overweight or obese, that’s 50 million dogs and it’s no laughing matter. Your dog is at risk of heart disease; diabetes; increased joint pain; high blood pressure and of course a reduced life span.
♦ The cooked bone your dog is gnawing on is dangerous. Cooked bones are softer than raw, a piece can break off, your dog can choke, it can splinter and cause a blockage or damage his throat or intestines.
♦ With all the delicious human food, he may start refusing his dog food.
♦ Some human food is toxic to dogs, and not everyone realizes that. Here are a few to be aware of: onions, grapes, almonds, chocolate, avocado, mushrooms.
♦ If you want to give your dog human food, start cooking his meals or add some to the dog food he’s currently eating. You can find lots of recipes online, order homemade meals delivered to your door or have a canine nutritionist create some healthy and well balanced meal ideas. If your dog has health issues, be sure to check with your vet about which foods should be avoided.
How to stop your dog stealing food off the table
When a dog steals food off the counter it’s called “counter surfing.” They’re looking for something delicious to eat, one day they’re surfing your counter top and find it. They now keep looking in the hopes of getting lucky again. Even though in this case we’re talking about stealing food off the table, the same advice on how to stop it applies.
Read this → “How to Stop a Dog From Counter Surfing: 2 Tips That Work”
Preventing your dog whining for food
It’s easier to prevent a behavior than to deal with it once it’s established, so let’s see how to stop the begging before it ever starts.
Never give your dog food from the table, and don’t let anyone else do it either. Yes, it is as simple as that.
It doesn’t matter how much she stares at you, how adorable she is, or how much she barks. If you give in once you’ll give in again, especially because she’ll bark longer next time and you’ll want to do anything to get her to stop. RESIST!!
If you have company for dinner, please let them know ahead of time feeding the dog from the table is not allowed. If it will help make them listen, explain all the reasons why it’s a bad idea. If they don’t respect your wishes, don’t invite them back or you’ll have to keep your dog in another room.
How to get your dog to stop begging at the table
Before you even start this training, your dog needs to know a reliable “stay.”
How to train your dog to stay
♦ Grab a treat pouch and fill it with food your dog absolutely loves, but doesn’t get very often. It could be chicken, ham, cheese, hot dogs…whatever he will respond to best because impulse control is challenging for dogs.
♦ For this training you’ll use the verbal cue “stay” and pair it with a hand signal which will look like a stop sign – hand open, fingers together and palm out.
♦ You can teach him to stay while sitting and lying down. The steps are the same, the difference is whether you will start your dog off in a “sit” or “down” position.
♦ Do not rush this training. If it takes many weeks or longer than that’s how long it’s going to take. It’s much better to increase time by one second and distance by one inch if that’s what your dog needs, because you’ll increase the chances of success.
♦ If your dog looks like he’s about to “break the stay” try and catch him before he does, and give him a treat. If it’s too late then don’t, just let it go. It’s quite possible you’re asking him to stay longer than he’s able to. Dial it back and progress slower.
♦ One other thing, I’m sorry if I’m stating the obvious but that may not be the case for someone who is new to having a dog and training. First you’ll teach him to stay in one position, then move on to the next, and which one you start with is up to you.
NOTE: I know at the moment you’re teaching your dog to “stay” so he doesn’t beg at the table, so practicing this in the house is really all you need. Having said that, it is a very important command for your dog to know, it can literally save his life one day. For that reason, I recommend you practice:
- First in the house when it’s quiet and you have his full attention
- Then when there’s a distraction like the tv, a person walking in…
- Outside in a fenced in yard just the two of you
- Outside in the yard with one other person, than two
- In the park while holding onto his leash
- Any other opportunities you have
This is how I taught my dog to stay
- Stand in front of your dog
- Ask your dog to sit
- Use the “stay” hand signal I mentioned above
- Say “stay”
- Wait a second or two then give him a treat
Practice that regularly, gradually increasing the amount of time your dog stays before getting a treat, even if it’s just one second. Keep sessions short.
The next phase of the training is for him to “stay” when you’re further away, which means gradually lengthening the distance between you. That could mean stepping back one inch at a time, and that’s perfectly fine.
Here are a few different things you can try, see which works best for you. Although the first two methods may get you the results you want, your dog isn’t learning so I would focus on 3, 4 or 5.
If you prefer your dog is not in the room while you’re eating, put her in her crate if she’s crate trained, or use a baby gate to keep her out. Giving her a Kong filled with part or all of her dinner or stuffed with a delicious treat will keep her busy. Freezing it will keep her busy longer.
Use a standard leash (not retractable) to tether her to a piece of furniture with enough room for her to rest comfortably on a bed. Give her a favorite bone or Kong to keep her busy.
Decide where in the room you would prefer your dog stayed during mealtime. The next time your dog begs stand up, face her, and with your body back her up to that spot, then ask her to “stay” or “lie down.” Be prepared for her to follow you back to the table as soon as you walk away, but that’s okay. Repeat the process as many times as it takes for her to learn where her place is at meal times.
It will disrupt you, and you may get annoyed if you have to keep doing it, but as long as you are consistent, she will learn. You may be pleasantly surprised it doesn’t take her long at all!
For extra motivation, why not give her a frozen treat in a Kong or a favorite toy to play with. It will be more effective if it’s something she gets only during this training.
This is an excellent training video by Victoria Stilwell you will find very helpful. The process is broken down into easy to follow steps. She is starting with a very well behaved dog, so if yours is a bit more hyper, the next video will address that.
This video is by Zac George and a must watch. The training process is broken down into very small steps, and he’s working with a hyper dog so many of you will find this more relatable.
For information about my virtual training and dog care consultancy service, and to book an appointment, please visit my services page.