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My dog begs at the table

Author: Deepti Rao

Author: Deepti Rao

Dog lover, certified trainer & behaviour consultant, and hooman to the smart ass Indie, Gaya.

Begging at the table. Some love it and find it endlessly amusing. Some hate it, and wish they could have ten minutes of peace. Most don’t have a choice.

Or do they?

It’s true that dogs LEARN to beg. They beg, we give in and a new behaviour is born. It’s also true though that they’ve EVOLVED to be pretty damn good at it! For generations, dogs have known that humans CANNOT resist the Oh so sad and soulful eyes. When you sit at the table, your dog is born knowing that he needs to activate those puppy eyes…they found the human kryptonite, and passed it on in their genes in those big round eyes!

And you need to give in just ONCE for your dog to never again leave your side at the dinner table. Trust me, no other behaviour is learnt as fast 🤷‍♀️

Now teaching them to go against their naturally evolved instinct, and suppressing our own to give in is tough all around. We have a few suggestions on what you can do:

  1. NEVER GIVE IN. Just don’t give in. I mean, like really…if you never start, chances of your dog giving up are far higher than if they’ve been fed even once. DON’T LOOK at those puppy eyes even.

Because equally important is to avoid giving attention. A look in their direction and they know they’ve got your attention. Saying “no sorry you’ve already eaten, it’s my turn now” or “don’t beg” or anything at all really while looking at them – is ALSO attention. Enough of a hook for your dog to think something is working and keep at it harder.

But if you’re here, it’s possible that this hasn’t worked out too well for you 🙂 Read on for other suggestions!

2. TEACH GO TO BED. Our girl CANNOT resist a bone on the table. She may ignore us through most meals but the ones that involve bones – she really begins to channel her inner beggar! There’s no ignoring her then. She whines and cries and jumps, and gets really insecure about the bones. So we do the next best thing to enjoy a peaceful meal…we ask her to Go to her bed, and stay there while we eat. At the end of our meal, she gets something REALLY AWESOME, usually a raw bone saved for this very moment.

Here’s my girl below bugging my unsuspecting nephew. (I’m vegetarian and she’s never bothered to beg around me :@)) Also – bless the mess, it’s from a time before we had all the time in the world to clean up.

This way I don’t have to tie her up or restrain her – she’ll keep the distance herself. And yes – Go to bed gets a waggy tail because it means something AWESOME is about to come. You can teach your dog this easily if they know to “down” & “stay”…here’s a great resource from Mc Cann Dog training to learn how:

3. DINNER TIME CLASH: Timing your meal with theirs makes no sense when they’re eating out of a bowl. Before you serve yourself even, they’re going to have gulped their meal down and found their way back next to you – appealing to you to believe that they were never fed at all! 

What you can do instead is have them play and work for their food. Slow down their feeding, while making it a lot more fun and rewarding than sitting sadly at the table! If they’re on wet meals – we highly recommend the West Paw Toppl or the Kong. For dry meals – we, of course, love the Sniffer Mat! Easy to set up with minimal effort, and can keep the dog busy long enough, feeling more content about their food. 

And if it isn’t really their meal time, maybe they could get a healthy snack to work for, like a frozen mashed banana in the Kong or Licky Mat, or treats on the Sniffer Mat.

We use a mix of the three, depending on the available food at hand (human and dogs!). Everybody wins, and eating around your dog doesn’t have to be such a big deal after all.

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