How to Train Your Dog to Not Eat Human Food

Hard
3-6 Months
Behavior

Introduction

Does your dog sit next to you at the table begging for your dinner instead of eating his own? Have you ever made yourself a sandwich and left it on the counter only to find your pup has snatched it when you weren't looking? Dogs are notorious scavengers, the urge to behave like this is deeply embedded in their ancestry. But, this doesn't necessarily mean it’s an acceptable behavior.

At the same time, if you have ever given your pup a "treat" in the form of tidbits from your plate or food that is left where he can get to it, you have only succeeded in reinforcing the fact he is getting rewarded (in the form of food) for this type of behavior. While it can be challenging to train your pup not to eat human food, it is not impossible. 

Defining Tasks

Training your dog not to eat human food falls under the general training, but can be very challenging. The basic command you must train your dog to obey is 'leave it' or your own version. No matter what command you finally settle on, be sure you always use the exact same wording and that you do so with a firm voice that tells your pup you mean business and expect him to obey.

As with most commands you train your dog to obey, this one can take a few weeks for your pup to learn he must do as he is told. But once he learns it, you should find that not only does he stop begging, but in most cases, he will ignore foods that are left within his reach (at least for a while, as any dog will give in to the temptation from time to time).

Getting Started

Getting started can be a bit challenging, but you have to begin somewhere. Be sure to have plenty of his favorite dog treats on hand to reward your furry friend for getting things right. You may also need to lay in a supply of top quality dog food if you are not already feeding your pup the best, to ensure his nutritional needs are being met. Beyond this, you will need his favorite human food, a quiet place to work, and an ample supply of patience. 

The Waiting Game Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Place his food out
Each day place a bowl of your dog's favorite food in the required amount out for him to eat.
Step
2
Give him an hour
Do this twice each day and give your dog an hour to eat before picking the bowl up.
Step
3
Try later
If he doesn't eat it the first time, try again later in the day.
Step
4
Never give in
Do not give in, your dog will not let himself starve.
Step
5
No snacks
Most important of all, do not give him anything else to eat and keep all other foods out of his reach.
Step
6
Smarter than you realize
Your dog is smarter than you may give him credit for. Once he realizes he is no longer going to be given people food just because he is begging and hasn't eaten, he will eat the food you put out for him. The more you repeat this type of training the faster he will learn.
Recommend training method?

The Leave the Food Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
A quiet starting spot
Start in a quiet room with a plate that has people food on it.
Step
2
Treats in hand
Have his favorite treats on hand.
Step
3
Leave it!
Each time your dog approaches the plate, tell him to "Leave it!"
Step
4
Praise for success
When he does so praise him and offer him the treat. Be sure not to punish him if he fails the test, but be ready to continue working with him.
Step
5
Repeat until he gets it
Be sure to do this every time you see him approaching human food and in time he will simply stop on his own. This method tends to work very well for most dogs and again, the concept of 'leave it' can be applied to anything else you don't want to end up in your furry friend's mouth.
Recommend training method?

The Treat Space Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Find a spot
Start by finding a spot for your dog to lie down and stay while you are preparing your meals and eating.
Step
2
Lie down right here!
Teach your dog to lie down on this same spot each time you start preparing a meal.
Step
3
Reward time
When he does, reward him with a treat and plenty of praise.
Step
4
Rinse and repeat
Repeat this process until your dog goes and lays down by himself in hopes of getting a treat.
Step
5
You win
Eventually, your dog will simply go lie down on his own without the need for commands or treats. This method works much better if you give your pup a nice comfy bed to lie on during your meal times.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Stella
Labradoodle
2 Years
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Question
0 found helpful
Stella
Labradoodle
2 Years

Stella had never eaten human food till my older brother came to visit and started giving her human food.(even though we told him not to) She never begs for food and will go lie down in her bed or leave the room when we eat but if we leave the room or leave some food out she will eat it. What should I do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
418 Dog owners recommended

Hello Eleanor, First, follow the Leave It method from the article linked below. When pup can Leave dropped treats and food alone (which shouldn't be hard for her), then progress to plates of people food on the ground and practice calling her past the food - be ready to block pup from getting to the food if she decides to disobey though - you have to be quick. As pup improves, gradually add more and more distance between you and the food. Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite I also suggest setting up some booby traps with food while you are out of the room. When you leave the room, tell pup to Leave It if there is food around, so pup will understand that they did something wrong if they try to get the food, then the booby trap will correct the stealing behavior if they go for the food. There are a couple of ways to booby trap food. One is to use a low-level stimulation collar or vibration collar and hide a camera to spy on pup and correct with the remote that corresponds to the collar if they try to get the food. If you go this route, you need to spend time learning how to properly fit and use an e-collar. SolidK9Training and TaketheLeadDogTraining on YouTube have some howto videos on fitting, finding the right stimulation level, and using the collars. Another way is to use a device like a Snap trap - which looks like a fake mouse trap - which makes a noise and jumps if touched but won't actually close on the dog - this device could be put by food or under a napkin that also has something delicious smelling under it - so pup tries to move the napkin to get to the food and activates the trap. There are also Scat mats and things you can set up from around your house. One trick it to stack a bunch of metal pot lids on a sheet pan precariously, tie a string through all the handles and tie the other end of the string to a hunk of food like a bagel with peanut butter between the pieces of bread (to make it smell tempting), so that when the dog grabs the food off the table, the attached string will make all the lids fall and make a crashing noise - set it up so that it won't fall on the dog, just make noise. You should be hiding in the next room waiting, and quickly rush into the room to pick up the food she tried to steal before she gets up the courage to grab it again - if she ends up getting the food he may decide it was worth the price of a scare. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Sam
Blue Heeler
4 Months
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Question
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Sam
Blue Heeler
4 Months

he’s been eating and begging for human food lately. he was doing fine until my younger family members snuck and started giving him food. i want it to where he doesn’t have a desire for it , but i don’t know if i can since he’s already started eating it. is there any way for me to get him to stop eating it?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
418 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jazlyn, As long as he is being fed people food still he will continue to want it - so feeding him people food needs to stop first. If you can't stop it because of other people, then you can teach him to do something more polite as a way of asking for it, instead of begging by being pushy and in your space. For example, you can teach him to lie down on a dog bed whenever people food is present and convince family members that they can only feed him if he first goes to his bed and stays quiet on it. That way they can still feed him safe things but only if he is polite about it - making it more likely that the people will comply, than if they cannot do it at all. You might also be able to convince family not to feed him people food but let them feed him healthy treats or pieces of his puppy food when he does a command for them like sit or shake first, then they have a way to spoil him without teaching bad manners. If you Can convince people to stop feeding him people food, then you will need to work on teaching him a behavior to do when people have food, such as lie Down, lie on his bed, or go into the other room - When he does that behavior you can reward him with a piece of his dog food. You can also teach the Out command (which means leave the area) and use that command whenever he is begging. Also, place a food stuffed chew toy on his dog bed or in his crate in the other room during meals to teach him to go there and lie down calmly while others are eating. Out command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ In the end he will do whatever he is rewarded for doing. If that is lying on his bed - he will do that. If he is rewarded for begging or standing close when people cook - and food is given or dropped, he will do that behavior. Make sure that you are rewarding (with his dog food) the behavior that you want him to do and not rewarding the things you don't want him to do. Your family can reward him - but only for polite behavior and with food you agree on is alright. If you can't get family not to feed him their food come up with a plan to teach him polite ways to ask for food, and get family on board with only feeding him safe things when he is being polite and not while he is being rude or pushy. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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