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How to Train Your Dog to Not Beg at the Table
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You’ve finally managed to get the whole family to the table for a meal--you’ve found an hour where you can sit and bicker amongst yourselves while you eat. Adding to the chaos that comes with a family meal, is your dog that subtly makes its way round each family member begging for food. He is probably smart too, he has his targets, he knows who’s most likely to give up the odd mouthful or two. His first port of call is probably going to be your fussiest child, they’re a sure thing.
While having your dog begging can often be humorous and cute, it also gets rather annoying. You have already fed him and you don’t want him piling on the extra pounds because he gets two dinners every evening. Training him not to beg will afford you a peaceful and relaxing meal, where everyone eats their food, vegetables and all!
Training your dog not to beg will involve a number of different behaviors. You need to be prepared to ignore him, no matter how adorable he looks. Ironically, you will need to be ready to incentivize him with food (just not at the table). It will also involve using verbal commands to send him away from the table.
This is all important so you can have a relaxing, humans-only meal at the table. It will also ensure all of your family eat their greens, there’ll be nowhere to hide them now!
The command itself is relatively easy to train, but it will be easier and quicker to train into puppies, as opposed to older dogs, who are already set in their ways. With a receptive dog, you could have the begging behavior trained out of him in just several days, more stubborn dogs may need a couple of weeks to get the hang of it.
Before you get going with your training you’re going to need a few things. First, you’re going to need treats or his favorite food, to incentivize him to stay in his bed and wait for you to finish eating. Perhaps more tricky though, you’re going to need a pep talk with the family to tell them strictly no more feeding, from now on they need to ignore him at all times during meals
Apart from that, just come armed with a ‘can do’ attitude and a good degree of patience. Now you’re all ready, it’s time to get to work!
The ‘Bed’ Method
The first step is to train him to go to his bed when a meal starts. So at a quiet point in the day, free from distractions, start in the same room as him and firmly say "bed" and point in the direction of his bed.
This may entail physically walking with him to the bed. You may also need to hold his collar to usher him along the way.
Once he gets to his bed, reward him with a treat. It is important he is quickly praised and rewarded. This positive reinforcement and the promise of food will speed up the learning process.
Practice this training several times daily before a meal time. Keep practicing sending him to his bed for 10-15 minutes a day. Do this until he knows to walk to his bed without you having to help him there. Then slowly cut down on the frequency of treats, until he will go to his bed without the promise of food.
Time to trial it at dinner. As soon as you serve dinner, instruct him to go to his bed. If he gets back up and comes to you at the table, calmly instruct him back to his bed and walk him to it if needs be. Repeat this as many times as necessary throughout the dinner. Be sure to then reward him at the end, but do not reward him every time he goes back to his bed.
The Sit & Stay Method
Training him to sit and stay during a meal will afford you peace and quiet not just at the dinner table, but when you want privacy to watch a movie or have a few glasses of wine with friends. First though, you need to train him to sit. Take a treat, hold it in front of his face, and firmly say "sit’".
Slowly rotate your hand back over his head. As soon as you’ve given the command, move your hand back, so that his head follows it and he is finally forced to sit down to try and reach it. You can also gently push his bottom down to encourage him. As soon as he has sat down, be sure to praise and reward him with a treat. Keep practicing this until you no longer need a treat to get him to sit.
Now it’s time to teach him to stay so you can get some well-deserved peace and quiet at the table. Command him to ‘sit’, then once he’s sat, hold a treat in front of him, say "stay’"and slowly take a step back. Then call him over and reward him with the treat and praise.
Increase the distance
Slowly increase the number of steps. As he learns the command, slowly start taking more and more steps back before giving him the treat. Keep this up until you can sit down and leave him waiting for several minutes. Then slowly reduce the number of treats you give him and just verbally praise him and play with him afterwards.
Before you take the food to the table, have him sit away from the table and instruct him to 'stay'. Once he has sat and is waiting, you can go and have your dinner. If he gets up, take him back over and instruct him to wait again. At the end of dinner, reward him and praise him to reinforce the good behavior. Keep up this training for as long as it takes to break his begging habit.
The Cold Shoulder Method
Stop feeding him wherever you are in the house. That means no feeding him leftovers when you’re on the sofa and no dropping him odd bits while you’re cooking. The only time he is going to get food, is when it is in his bowl.
Cold shoulder at the table
Give him the cold shoulder when you are at the table. Not only do you need to not feed him at the table, but you also need to pretend as if he isn’t there. Don’t pet him, talk to him, or give him any attention. By ignoring him at the table and refusing to feed him when he begs around the house, he will quickly associate food with just his bowl and past memories of food from the table will soon fade.
Feed him just before your dinner. If you can feed him then, he shouldn’t feel quite the same craving for food. So 10 minutes before your meal, feed him his (from his bowl, of course). Then while you are eating your dinner, he will hopefully be lying down and digesting his food.
Time to reward him for good behavior. By the time dinner has finished, having been ignored for so long, he will probably have given up begging and gone to lie down. Go over to him, praise him and play with him to show him if he is lying down away from the table you will come to him. This will reinforce that food and attention is on your terms, you are the pack leader and you are in control.
Be persistent and be patient. The hard part of this training is being consistent. He will of course look irresistible when he’s begging for food, but you need to persevere with the training until the begging behavior stops all together. Even if it takes a couple of weeks, stay strong and ignore him at the table, plus ensure the only food they get is from his bowl!
By James Barra
Published: 11/05/2017, edited: 01/08/2021
Training Questions and Answers
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He asleeps on my bed. I want him to sleep in his bed beside my bed now.
June 8, 2020
Darlene Stott - Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended
Hello, this will take consistent training but is entirely doable. All of the Methods here are good but I suggest the Off Method: https://wagwalking.com/training/not-sleep-on-the-bed. Make sure that Ludo has a great alternative to your bed. He's a large breed, so buy him a super comfy and nice dog bed to place on the floor bedside you. Then train him to stay "off" the bed, always directing him to his new sleeping arrangements. It may take a few weeks of waking up to redirect him to his own bed, or he may decide he likes it right away. Good luck!
June 9, 2020
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Hi we are a family of 5 and we love Rocco very much.Since the day we got him we haven't been away from him only at night time to go to bed he stays downstairs.We just came across a problem when we try to walk him he just doesn't want to go.We have tried everything treats encouragement different times of the day different routes he just wont budge and we all just want to let him enjoy the outdoors with us!
April 27, 2020
Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer
1133 Dog owners recommended
Hello, First, check out article linked below and follow one of those methods to get pup used to the pressure of the leash if that seems to be part of the issue: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash Next, pay attention to pup's body language and the environment. Some pups don't want to walk because they are afraid of a neighborhood dog in a fence barking, construction workers, funny objects (like Christmas decorations), and things we would never think twice about. If pup isn't familiar with something (no matter how normal it may seem to us) it can feel scary to pup and be a reason why they don't want to leave the safety of the yard. If pup seems nervous or something might be bothering them in the environment, work on helping pup overcome that fear first by using play and treats to distract pup and then reward pup for any confidence, calmness, or tolerance they shows around the fearful thing. Practice this further away from the scary thing first and very gradually work up to pup being able to pass that thing as his confidence grows with your help. Next, if pup still won't walk, take some small treats or pup's dog food pieces with you in a small ziplock bag in your pocket. Every time pup takes a couple of steps, give a treat. Keep your energy excited and confident. When pup stops, tell pup "Let's Go" in a calm and business-like tone of voice (it's not a question it's a confident, calm command), then tug and release the leash several times in a row until pup takes a couple more steps - at which point give another treat. The leash tugs should stop as soon as pup starts moving. Keep your walking goals short at first. If pup won't leave your yard - your first goal is just to leave the yard. When pup reaches that goal - go home as an additional reward for pup following you - even if a lot of leash tugs were involved. When pup will go to the end of the yard easily then walk to the next house. Gradually increase your walk distance overtime. If you make your goal something huge like the whole neighborhood at first you are less likely to succeed - work up to distance overtime. Also, do not continuously pull pup on the leash. Doing so can harm pup's neck, but also dog's have a natural tendency to pull away from something - so if you pull pup in one direction, he will just pull back in the other direction, budging even less. This is why you do the quick tug and releases so that not following is uncomfortable with the tugs but not a continuous pull. You want pup to choose to walk to get away from the annoying tugs and to receive treats. Finally, make sure pup isn't in pain or sick, causing her not to want to exercise in any form due to feeling bad. If you have reason to suspect pup is ill or injured, definitely see your vet. (I am not a vet) Since pup's exposure has been limited, this is most likely a fear issue and pup needs to be positively exposed to the new things in the environment via time spent there not walking - playing games and giving reward for good responses first. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
April 27, 2020