Whine Doesn't Pay: Curb Your Dog's Begging Behavior

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Although it may seem cute at first, a dog begging for food or attention can quickly become a nuisance. Begging is a learned behavior in dogs, and if trained properly from the start a dog won’t resort to begging because the action doesn’t provide a positive result. Unfortunately, by the time most dog owners realize that begging has become problematic, they don’t know how to stop their dog from engaging in the behavior.

 

Here are some examples of behaviors that some dogs resort to while begging for food or attention:

 

  • Barking

  • Pawing

  • Whining or crying

  • Jumping

  • Staring

  • Stealing

 

You’ve taught your dog that begging equals rewards, and now you need to train your dog not to beg. Here are some steps you can take to curb your dog’s begging.

How to Prevent Your Dog From Begging for Food

You’ve let your dog beg at the table for food during dinner. Maybe she whines, paws at your leg or the floor, or cries until a scrap is thrown her way. Perhaps she just lays on the floor, staring unblinkingly at you until you look at her and give her a piece of steak. Now that you want to break this established behavior, where do you start? Try these solutions to bring peace to the dinner table for you and your dog.

Feed Your Dog a Nutritious Diet, and Feed Her First

Put your dog on a nutritious diet that gives her the nutrients that she needs. Some dogs will beg for food if what they eat daily is not healthy enough to satisfy their hunger. If your dog’s diet is lacking in enzymes and proteins, she may try to make up for that lack by begging for your dinner.

Also, make sure that she gets fed immediately before you and your family have dinner. Your dog may be less likely to beg for food if her stomach is full.

Eliminate All Reinforcement

This step is a tough commandment for many dog owners to follow, as it requires you to understand that any reaction that you give your dog --- positive or negative --- is attention as far as your dog is concerned. You must be cognizant of your actions toward your dog and cease all manner of reinforcing your dog’s begging behaviors.

 

Eliminating reinforcement means cutting your dog off from dinner scraps and snacks, as well as any acknowledgment of your pup. You must ignore your dog’s attention-seeking behaviors by not making eye contact with her when you are eating and not give her attention by talking, petting, yelling, or reprimanding her for her actions.

 

It’s critical to this re-training process to be consistent in this step no matter how loud your dog barks at you or how doe-eyed her looks are when you’re eating your dinner. You can’t expect your dog to understand mixed signals, so be clear and consistent at all times.

Keep Your Dog Occupied and “In Place”

Give your dog a specific occupation and location to stay while you eat dinner. Teach your dog the command “Place” by giving her a specific spot to go to at dinner time, such as a pet bed or mat. You may need to use a leash or small treat to encourage your dog to go to the mat, then give the command “Down.” If your dog breaks the command, give her a stern “No,” and start the process over again.

 

This training will take patience and time, but with consistency, it will eliminate begging at the dinner table as it gives your dog a “job” to do. This training can come in handy if you host family on holidays.

Feed Your Dog Scraps After Dinner

If you do want to give your dog dinner scraps, do so after you have finished eating by placing them in her food bowl. Make sure that the scraps are nutritious for your dog, and help her associate this reward as coming after you have finished dinner. She will quickly realize that whining and begging during dinner won’t get her anything, but quietly waiting until you are done eating will.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Begging for Attention

What if your dog begs for more than food? What if her goal is to have your attention all the time? Here are a couple of strategies you can use to eliminate your dog’s neediness.

Ignore Your Dog

Similar to a dog begging for food, if your dog begs for attention she will accept any reaction that you give her as the attention she is seeking. Therefore, it is critical that you ignore her attempts to get your attention, some of which may be literally in your face. As hard as it may be, ignoring your dog will teach her that attention-seeking behaviors will not give her the results that she desires.

 

You will need to be patient during this step, as your dog will likely first increase her attention-seeking behavior before realizing that it no longer works.

Give Your Dog More Exercise

It’s also important to ask yourself why your dog wants your attention so much and so badly. In some cases, it’s because your dog is bored, ignored, and has not had enough interaction with you.

 

Exercise is often an easy solution to your dog’s poor behavior. Dogs should have between 20 and 30 minutes of exercise a day, so get your dog outside for a brisk walk or jog. If that isn’t possible with your schedule, look into dog care centers in your area where your dog can be engaged and interactive with others throughout the course of the day.

Following Through

Dogs beg because they have learned from our reactions that begging results in rewards, whether via food or attention. To change the behaviors you’ve created in your dog, you need to train her persistently and consistently to understand that you will dictate what actions justify rewards. Remember that consistency is the path to success when you train your dog to let begging behaviors go.