05 Nov How to Stop a Dog From Begging for Food at the Table
Could your dog use an upgrade to his table manners? If Fido takes pride in being by the table every time a meal is served, you well know the frustration of a pooch that begs.
Begging for Food is Embarrassing
Is there anything worse than sitting down to your Sunday dinner with valued guests while Fido whimpers in anticipation of a little tidbit from the table? While you might find this habit endearing, your guests most likely don’t, and it’s not hard to tell who is going to be the topic of conversation on the drive home from your house! You pride yourself on being an excellent dog parent, but your dog’s tableside serenade might spell a different tale to your guests.
Permitted Begging Leads to Worsening Behaviors
But poor canine table manners are not just limited to whining. If your pooch likes to jump up and plunk his paws on the table to get your attention, that’s taking things one step further. Particularly, if your pooch’s past holiday transgressions include taking a swipe at a turkey leg as the plate is passed during Christmas dinner, licking the pie during Thanksgiving, or stealing the whole Easter ham before the family is even seated at the table.
These behaviors are rarely limited to special occasions. Begging for food at the table can lead to even more presumptuous behavior on the part of your pampered pooch. Chalking it to up to a little holiday canine mischief can easily lead to Fido thinking he can help himself to whatever he feels like snacking on when you’re not around to stop him…even if what he is craving happens to be on your kitchen counter! Say goodbye to seasoned steaks resting on the countertop while you fire up the grill. With Fido on the job, those steaks will be gone in no time, and you’ll be heading out to McDonald’s for your supper!
Begging Can Be Dangerous
But bad behavior is only part of the equation when it comes to begging at the table. Dogs gone rogue in quest of scraps from the table can lead to all kinds of problems which could cause harm to your family, your guests, and even Fido himself.
Here is a list of a few potential hazards as a result of a dog on a mission to snag himself some table scraps:
• Bumps, burns, and bruises
If your dog is longing to grab himself a snack, his best attempts may lead to spills, and those spills could land on you, your family, or even your pooch. Getting in your way as you carry food to the table could lead to hot gravy spills, causing painful burns and bringing the holiday celebrations to a grinding halt.
But gravy and other liquids can cause more than just burns. Spilled gravy on the floor is slippery, and if you aren’t quick enough to spy and clean up the spill right away, your guests might slip on it and take a header. Since coming home from a party with bumps and bruises doesn’t top the holiday wish list of most guests, teaching Fido to steer clear of your dinner table is an important step to prevent these things from happening.
When a dog is on a stealth mission to snag a little treat, he’s not that discriminate in what he grabs. You can also rest assured that whatever he manages to snatch is going to be swallowed in a hurry as he knows you’ll be in hot pursuit after him to get it back. Unfortunately, one of the most popular things dogs tend to pull from plates are pieces of meat which can include bones. Bones can cause serious gastrointestinal distress and even blockages necessitating emergency surgery.
• Property damage
Fine furniture is meant to stand the test of time, but it wasn’t designed to withstand the abuse of doggy claws. If your pup likes to make his presence known by pawing at your cherished handcrafted Simply Amish table, he’s bound to leave his mark for sure; something you’d prefer NOT to have as a reminder of his bad behavior on a cherished family heirloom.
Juices from foods like pickled beets also stain. You didn’t spend a small fortune choosing the perfect cream carpet for your dining room only to have it now covered in brilliant pink blotches that make it resemble some sort of psychedelic Holstein cow. Spills not cleaned up swiftly from laminate flooring can lead to peeling and bubbling, and liquids and hardwoods are not fast friends, resulting in unsightly water damage to expensive flooring.
If your pup happens to snag a nail on a tablecloth, he could potentially upkettle every last item on your table, including Grandma’s fine china. While the loss of a priceless family treasure is enough to bring a tear to even the most stoic of eyes, the broken shards of glass and porcelain which litter your floor can become embedded in your feet and in Fido’s paws, a painful prospect indeed.
• Potential tripping hazard
If your doggo likes to meander from person to person looking for a “soft touch” who might give in and throw him a “bone,” he can easily become a stationary hazard. If a family member or guest gets up from the table, they just might find themselves tripping over Fido and taking a nasty tumble. It’s one way to turn the night into a memorable evening but probably not the best way.
Though at first blush begging for food at the table might seem cute, the end result is bad habits that range from stealing food, accidents, spills, and potentially even health hazards. It is a behavior that must be stopped in its tracks for the safety and well-being of your family…and your furniture.
How to Stop Begging In Its Tracks
If your dog could use a manners tuneup, no need to hang your head in shame. You’re not alone! But more than that, there is hope that Fido can learn that begging is not the way to go if he hopes to stay in your good graces.
Here are some top tips to help your pup learn canine etiquette that will have your guests raving about how well-mannered he is:
• Restrict access to your table during mealtimes.
For many families, the easiest solution to this problem is simply to remove Fido from the equation altogether. While this certainly is an excellent means of dealing with a pesky problem, it will not do anything to change the behavior. If you ultimately hope to have Fido continue to join his family in the dining room during mealtimes, this is not going to be the most effective approach for you. However, if peace at the dinner table is what is most important, this is an excellent way to go.
You can accomplish your goal by placing baby gates across the door to your dining room thus removing access to the area or alternatively you can crate your dog in an entirely different room. However, you will need to provide Fido with something fun to do…or better yet, something super yummy of his own to chew on; otherwise, you may still experience whining, the very problem you are trying to solve! Some excellent choices include raw meaty bones, a new toy, or even a Kong stuffed with something delicious. You’ll want something that keeps Fido’s brain and his jaws occupied. Over time, Fido will soon learn that supper time means he gets something fun to do, and he will start to look forward to his “alone” time as much as you look forward to yours.
• Teach a “leave it” command.
Every dog should be taught a solid “leave it” command. It is one “trick” that has the potential to change a dog’s life. If you have decided you’d like your dog to remain in your dining room while you eat, you will need to tell him to “leave it” when you see him even thinking about plopping his paws on the table or eyeing up a something tasty on the table.
• Teach “on your bed” or “in your place” to your dog.
To effectively teach a dog to remain in place or on his bed, it is best to begin the training in a room that is less distracting for him and with no distractions present. By rewarding your dog with a treat every time he chooses to go to his bed of his own volition, he will soon learn that this is an awesome place to be, and good things happen when he goes there. Once your dog is successfully going to his bed and staying there when commanded to do so, you can begin to move the bed closer to the dining room and ultimately into it completely.
• Crate your dog.
For some dogs, temptation is just too great, and they need to be crated either in the dining room with you or in a separate area of your home altogether.
Why do dogs beg?
Essentially dogs beg because it works. Dogs are powerfully motivated by positive reinforcement and are deeply in tune with our reactions. If in the past Fido has turned on the charm, and you in turn have offered up a morsel on your plate—score 1 for Fido; he has learned that you are a sucker for the cute act. And often all it takes is one successful attempt to lead to repeat performances. For this reason, consistency is key in training.
If you want to eradicate a behavior, you cannot give in; no matter what. This also includes putting a damper on your emotions and natural reactions. No matter how funny or cute the behavior, you must try your best not to react as your dog will pick up on even the most minute reactions in his favor and use them to his future advantage. To solve the problem, you must stay strong!
If Fido’s table manners have got you down, don’t despair! With a little bit of persistence, you can help Fido to learn begging at the table just isn’t appropriate for a well-mannered dog. Try out some of our tips today!