Food is our common ground, a universal experience – James Beard
Now is the time of year where we have lots of people in and out of our house. Most of the time there’s food involved. Lots and lots of delicious food. Which means, all of a sudden you’re face to face with one of your biggest pet peeves you have with your dog. Begging.
No one likes it. It’s annoying and in your face. It doesn’t allow you to have a relaxing meal and quite honestly it’s rude. The good news is that it’s absolutely workable! If you spend some time working on the begging issue you will see big improvements.
Start with the realization that if you’re sitting down to a hot meal, it might not be hot when you finally get to eat it. Never work with your dog on begging when you’re hungry, because quite honestly you’re more likely to lose your temper under this circumstance. Remember, it’s all about staying calm when you’re working with your dog.
When starting to work on changing this behavior, make sure you have a spot in mind that you would like your dog to go. It is important to let your dog see you still, but he does not need to be under feet. Pick a spot that won’t change. Maybe it’s where his bed is or maybe it’s the edge of the rug. Wherever it is, stay consistent. This will help your dog understand what is expected of him.
Sit down at the table where you usually have your meal. If your dog is too close to you, quite simply back him up. Use confident body language and move into your dog’s personal space until he is at the spot you would like him to stay in. Give your dog the stay or wait command (whichever you’re using currently) and slowly back away from your dog. Make sure you are facing your dog the entire time. By facing him you can see if there is any forward motion. If your dog starts moving towards the food again, walk back into his personal space until again he is where you want him to stay.
Until your dog has accepted the answer that he must stay in his spot while you are eating, it may take multiple trips (and some kind of odd tango) until you are able to sit down for your meal. Keep an eye on your dog and make sure you’re answering all questions. When you’re dog fixates on your food or takes a step forward he’s asking “Can I get in your personal space and hope that you give in to my puppy eyes and give me food off of your plate?” The answer, as cute as your dog’s eyes may be, is always no.
Work on it outside of meal times at first so you don’t starve. Slowly but surely you’ll see improvement. You’ll have to answer the question of “my food?” less and less. Soon, your dog will realize that the answer is always no and will understand what is expected of him at mealtime.
Remember, your dog isn’t trying to be annoying. He merely has a question he would like answered and if there are different expectations of him, he needs those outlined clearly. Once he understands all of that, you’ll find meal time is a lot more comfortable without two extra eyes staring down your every move as you eat your sandwich.
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH