Having a dog can be fun and often she will instill relaxation in a human. However, it’s not so relaxing when your pup is constantly begging for food when you’re at the dinner table. How do you stop this behavior, especially if it has been going on for quite some time?
Changing a dog’s behaviors takes time, diligence, and patience, no matter what the behavior is and how long the behavior has been going on. There are several training methods that can be used to get your dog to stop begging.
First and foremost, it’s good to get your dog into a training routine, even if it only involves a few simple commands like sit, down, come and stay. I recommend you spend 20 minutes with your pup a couple of times a week with the commands she already knows. In addition, you should train a “place” command. This command sends your pup to a specific place, usually a bed. I recommend this bed be located within eye or earshot of the kitchen table, or wherever you eat your meals. To teach “place” you must have high value treats. As discussed in other blogs, high value treats are those that your dog cannot ignore, even with medium-sized distractions going on. High value treats are pure meat – either real turkey or chicken slices, hot dogs, freeze dried beef liver or steak, or actual liver or steak (if you can afford). There IS a difference in the value of treats for dogs, trust me. Back to “place”. First you will need to lure your pup to the “place” with the treat and the goal is to get all 4 paws onto the “place”. You can use a clicker to mark the exact time all 4 paws are on the “place” or you can say “yes!”, but timing is critical – dogs think instantaneously – their minds react to our words and actions much faster than humans can. So AS SOON AS her paws are on the “place” you must click or say “yes!” to mark the proper behavior. Once your pup is in “place”, tell her to stay in “place” (a prerequisite, she must already know “stay”). At the beginning, she may break command and come off place – you will need to correct her and say “no” and redirect her back to “place” – you may need to do this a bunch of times until she stays in place for a few seconds. Once a few seconds pass, tell her the release word “OK!” and then toss a treat a few feet from “place” so she understands that it’s OK to leave “place”. After a week or so of training, once she understands “OK!” means she can be free from “place”, you can stop throwing the treat and just say “OK!” to release her.
Teaching “place” from there on will include the 3 D’s – Distance, Duration, and Distraction. You start off teaching “place” by slooooowly extending your Distance from her “place” while she is in command. Once she gets better at staying in “place” with greater Distance, increase the time (Duration) that you keep her in “place” before releasing her (OK!). As she gets good at increased Distance and Duration, start throwing in Distraction. Distraction can include throwing her toys around while she is in “place”, jumping up and down and running around, and eventually placing human food on the table, since that is your ultimate goal – to keep her in “place” while you eat Expect all of this to take weeks if not months to perfect, so be patient with your girl or boy.
An important note, all family members have to be in on not giving your dog any human food from the table or any other time, unless it is directly related to training.
Another method that is often less successful but will mention is giving the cold shoulder to your dog when you’re eating. To do this, you mustn’t look at your pup at all while eating. Of course, your pup will most likely be insistent and may jump up on you. You should have a 3-foot leash tied to him at all times to teach this method. If he jumps up on you, say “off” and gently guide him off of you with the short leash. He will probably jump again, be ready to do the same thing. If he jumps a third time, tether him with his leash to something solid that doesn’t move and leave him there for a few minutes, then release him. Rinse and repeat. As before with “place”, you will need to have the diligence and patience of a saint to make this work. Eventually, he will get tired of being tethered up and will learn not to jump up. By the way, if he whines or barks, follow the same procedure as above.