Nothing puts a person off their food like a begging dog. A wet nose on the knee followed by a puddle of drool isn’t the least bit appetizing. Even if you don’t mind your own dog begging at the table, if you ever plan to have dinner guests, do them a favor by teaching your dog not to beg. A dog that begs from one person will beg from everyone who has food. Start early by never feeding puppies from the table and reinforce this lesson throughout life.
The first step in preventing or halting begging at the table is a complete ban on feeding dogs at the table. Even if the humans present have finished eating, the dog won’t make a distinction between getting table scraps after a meal or during a meal. If you wish to give your dog some safe leftovers after dinner, such as green beans, pumpkin or white meat chicken, put the leftovers in the fridge for a moment and then serve them in the dog’s bowl. If you’ve got children, watch them carefully during meals. Kids often try to avoid eating certain foods by feeding them to the family dog when Mom and Dad aren’t looking.
Even a dog that isn’t fed at the table may notice the aroma of food and start to beg during meals if an alternate behavior isn’t trained. The simplest behavior to teach in order to make begging incompatible with obedience is “lie on the mat.” Get the dog a special mat or dog bed to be placed just outside the room where the human family dines.
Use clicker training to slowly shape an extended down-stay on the mat or bed during meals. Start by asking the dog to down-stay only for a few seconds at a time. Take as much time as necessary to extend the behavior until your dog will stay comfortably without whining or getting up for the full length of a meal. Once the dog is staying for more than two or three minutes in a row, it’s beneficial to offer a special chew toy that is only provided when you dog is told to stay down on his mat. This will reinforce that the extended down-stay is not a punishment but simply another cue.
Until you’re fully confident in your dog’s down-stay, use baby gates, a safe room or a crate to confine him during your meals. It’s better to confine a dog unnecesarily than to allow it to develop a habit of begging or reinforce and old habit you’ve nearly extinguished.
Once the down-stay is completely solid even with distractions including the scent of food, invite guests over for dinner and impress them with your well-behaved dog! They’ll be asking for training tips before the meal is over.