Dogs who beg are a definitely a problem, but is the actual issue the begging, or is it something else? Let's learn how to address the begging, and what causes it to begin with.
For some reason, I rarely do a blog post about dog's begging. Most likely because I don't really have dogs who beg, and never have. It's not something that I have to deal with personally. But then I was thinking to myself, why is that? I know how to address the behavior with my clients' dogs when it's brought up, but why haven't I ever owned a dog who begged? Darwin, Sparta, Orion, Ellis, Arwen, and Hazel: five dogs, zero begs. But why?
Find out why my dogs never beg, and how you can make the same (honest!) claim for your own dog.
Tip 1: Understanding Dog Behavior vs. Dog Training
I constantly drum it into my clients heads the difference between dog training and dog behavior. Your dog's behavior is the begging; . You'd like to train them to be in a specific spot during mealtimes, perhaps.
Behavior and training are not interchangeable. Think of a behavior as a question your dog is asking: Can I beg? Obviously the answer is "no". But rather than giving them an answer, we don't want to be the "bad guy", so we try every trick in the book to avoid giving them an answer: Put them in a crate. Give them just a taste. Ignore them. Use a spray of water.
So many different gimmicks rather than just simply addressing your dog's behavior with a negative. Always give an answer to your dog's questions. Learn how to give a calm, gentle negative to your dog without resorting to violent and abusive shock collars, or ineffective gimmicks, in this article.
Tip 2: Address Your Dog's Begging Before You're Frustrated
There's a proverb I like that encapsulates this thought process entirely:
You can put a frog in a pot of boiling water, and it will jump right out because it perceives that the water is too hot. But if you put a frog in tepid water, you can slowly boil it because it never perceives the water is getting too hot.
Your dog has been begging for the past 20 minutes, but it's only at minute 21 that you finally get frustrated enough to do something about it, and now that you're angry, you're most likely doing the wrong thing.
Rather than waiting until the behavior makes you frustrated, start by addressing the behavior you know is going to make you frustrated. Learn how to work with your dog's behavior when you're frustrated in this article.
Tip 3: Stop Rewarding Your Dog's Behavior
Giving your dog a small bite of your meal in the hopes that they will stop begging for more is like taking a drink of milk, seeing that it's gone bad, and putting it back in the fridge, hoping it gets better.
If the behavior you don't like is the begging, you start giving them an answer to that negative behavior the moment they present it, not after they've been indulging in it for the past 20 minutes. And definitely don't reward your dog's behavior when they're begging.
Tip 4: Pilot Your Dog In Other Situations
So your dog has never heard a negative in their life, what makes you think the first time they get one (while they're begging) they will readily accept it and not throw a tantrum?
Piloting is no different than parenting, except we are doing it with dogs instead of kids. Imagine how silly it would be for me to have taken my children to a fancy restaurant and expected them to have good manners when I've encouraged good manners at home. Of course it's going to be a nightmare of impulse control issues.
By managing your dog's expectations of how they are allowed to treat you in every other situation, you are effectively addressing the specific situation regarding the begging. Don't be afraid of giving your dog a negative. Negatives just mean "no". Not bad, not punishment, just "no". And by helping your dog adjust to not always getting what they want in one situation, it helps them cope with other situations.
Tip 5: Understanding Your Dog's Space
Space is a great way to communicate. We talk about people we are comfortable with as being "in our inner circle". People we don't trust we "keep at arm's length". Space is a great communicator with dog's as well.
If I allow my dogs to be right at my feet while I'm eating, then I'm essentially allowing them the potential to share my food. But if I don't allow them within 15 feet of the dinner table as I'm eating, I'm essentially squelching their chances of being thrown a tidbit.
If you've already got it in your head that you don't want to share your food with your dog, make it absolutely clear to your dog by communicating precisely what you mean: stay away from my food. "Away" doesn't mean under your feet. They will always be hopeful, and you will be forever frustrated by their incessant questions regarding your food.
Especially when you're initially working through your dog's behavior with begging, be sure to allow yourself plenty of room between your meal and your dog.
Your food is Ground Zero. Make sure you have a perimeter around Ground Zero, and that is the line your dog is not allowed to cross. Call it a buffer zone.
And that buffer zone will be different for each dog. My Arwen can have a buffer zone of 3 feet away from Ground Zero and be fine, but my Darwin needed about 10 feet of buffer zone initially. Go by what your dog needs, and follow what their behavior is telling you.
BONUS TIP: Know When You and Your Dog Have Had Enough
The mantra here at Darwin Dogs is:
Control the situation
Sometimes you can't get past step one. That's ok! If you've just had enough, it's okay to lock your dog away. Remember, each time you answer one of your dog's questions, you get money out of their Piloting Piggy Bank. You use that money to eventually pay for all of dog's behaviors. So if you answer your dog's question about begging 3 times before finally removing them from the situation entirely, you may not have saved up enough "money" to pay for their question, but you're chipping away at it.
Some behaviors may be a lot expensive than others. And the cost of each behavior is unique to each dog. It's their uniqueness that we celebrate, so embrace it.
Each dog is their own unique brand of asshole, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Okay, maybe a little different, but it is the way it is, and I accept my dog as a package deal, warts and all.
Dog Training vs. Dog Life
By focusing on dog life, rather than dog training, our goals can become so much more attainable and clear-cut. Most of us don't want an obedient dog, we just don't want a dis-obedient dog. Robot-style dogs who are afraid of stepping out of line are for certain types of people I guess.
But that's not my style. That's why I developed the Piloting method of dog training over 20 years ago, a force-free method of dog training and puppy training that didn't rely on abusive shock collars or cruel prong collars, yet didn't constantly bribe with non-stop click-n-treat style dog training. I want a bond with my dog based on trust and communication.
Learn more about our Piloting method of dog and puppy training here.
Find out more about our private in home 30 Day Best Dog Ever and 30 Day Best Puppy Ever training packages here.
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Dog Training and Puppy Training
Greater Cleveland Area