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How to teach your dog to stop begging for food

Dalmatian with head on table begging for food advice

Teach your dog good table manners for more enjoyable mealtimes.

© Pixabay

Dogs are natural scavengers and can often become quite fixated on food. But their typical behaviour of begging for food, especially at mealtimes, is usually behaviour they learn from humans. The good news is that if you are patient and diligent, it’s relatively easy to stop a dog from begging or prevent it from happening in the first place.
 

By Zoë Monk

Updated on the 24/07/2020, 09:13

While you may enjoy the delicious smells of your favourite dishes, your dog is no different. Most dogs tend to enjoy the same kinds of foods that we do and human food can smell particularly delicious to a dog. But if your dog has developed the bad habit of spending mealtimes begging for scraps from the table or staring at you drooling with a hopeful look on their face, you may want to work on changing their begging behaviours.

Why is my dog always begging for food?

Dogs are great at coming up with different ways to get exactly what they want from their owners, especially at mealtimes. Even young pups will soon learn how to manipulate dog owners. Our canine companions have perfected the technique of looking sad and hungry with big doe eyes. If your dog often displays this behaviour, then it’s likely that they’ve learned that this method of asking is often effective. Playing on your caring nature, they use their best acting skills to get table scraps without much effort.

Shih Tzu begging for food
Begging is learned behaviour © Pixabay

But the most important thing to understand is that your dog’s begging behaviour is something they’ve learned. At some point, your dog has realised that certain behaviours will bring them certain rewards. If you reward your dog with what they want, they will simply continue to behave in that way. You probably didn’t even realise that you were teaching your dog that begging is acceptable, but by giving in to their demands, even just once in a while, you could have unintentionally encouraged this behaviour.

Dogs are great, but their behaviour can sometimes be a problem. Check out our guide on dog behaviour problems and what you can do to tackle them!

Why does my dog act like its starving?

If your dog seems to always be hungry and is never full, it could be that they’ve simply learned to act as if they are hungry because you always give into them. However, your dog could be hungry as a result of:

  • Diet isn't nutritious enough
  • They aren't getting enough of their food for their age, size and breed 
  • Experiencing health problems that makes them feel hungry such as diabetes, Cushing’s Disease, worms or malabsorption 

Should you let your dog beg for food?

Even when they are looking at you with puppy dog eyes, begging is a form of demanding. When dog owners give in to it, it gives a dog some control within the family ‘pack’. While your dog’s begging behaviour may seem harmless and perhaps even a little cute, it can become more aggressive if your dog doesn’t get what they want or as they mature and get bigger. Begging and crying can turn into aggression and/or barking and there’s the risk that your dog without warning could jump onto the table to grab at the food. 

Your dog won’t have the ability to tell the difference between the official household rules and those ‘just this once’ occasions. If everyone follows the rules, including well-meaning visitors, it will be easier for your dog to learn what is expected of them. Whatever you teach your dog and reinforce is what you will get back from them. 

How do I stop my dog from staring at food?

It may sound easier said than done, but you should ignore your dog when they start begging. Begging is a form of attention-seeking and while their sad, pretend vulnerability might make you feel sorry for them, giving them attention will only encourage this behaviour. When they start staring at your food, don’t give in by giving them food. Remember that your pet is well-cared for and well-fed and doesn’t need extra food. While it can be difficult to reject your dog, you need to take a hard-line approach with your dog until they stop the unwanted behaviour.

Check out our fun tips on training your new puppy!

What can I give my dog to stop drooling?

All dogs salivate, so some drooling is normal. Dogs who have loose hanging lips, such as Basset Hounds, will drool more than other breeds. Your dog’s drooling is probably a reflex reaction to the delicious sight and smells of your food. There are some simple ways to help stop your dog from drooling while you eat and also tackle their hunger:

  • Give them nutritious meals 
  • Feed your dog at the same time you eat
  • Always have water available
  • Never feed them scraps off the table 
  • Stick to regular mealtime times
  • Measure their feed to ensure they are getting enough for their age, size and breed
  • Put some of your dog’s food into a food puzzle such as a Kong toy

How do I stop my dog begging for food?

If your dog often begs for food, whether you are trying to enjoy a meal or just having a snack, there are some things you can do to encourage your dog to stop this behaviour.

Feed your dog first

Just before you sit down to your meal, feed your dog, ideally in a separate room from where you will be eating. This should distract them sufficiently to allow you to enjoy your meal in peace.

Consistent discipline

To stop your dog begging, you will need to retrain them and as with any training, you must be consistent. If you consistently enforce to your dog that begging will not be rewarded then they are less likely to carry on begging. You can even reward your dog vocally for their good behaviour and behaving themselves while you eat.  

Don’t punish them

It can be hard to ignore a begging dog but never punish them for doing so. This will likely have the exact opposite effect that you intended and simply rewards them with extra attention.

Create a feeding routine

When your dog knows exactly when and where they will be fed every time, they are less likely to beg for food. 

Control their access to the table

Use a child gate to confine your dog to another room while you sit down to eat. If they are crate trained, consider putting them in their crate while you eat. If you want them to stay in the room with you, but not loiter right next to the table or drool all over your visit, attach their lead to a heavy piece of furniture to keep them in their own space.

Encourage your dog to do something else

Teach your dog to do something else while you are eating such as staying on the bed or lying down on a mat. You can also give them a chew bone or give them a stuffed Kong to keep them busy.

Dog communication doesn't have to be a mystery. Read our tips on understanding your dog and enjoy a stronger bond with your canine!

Stop dog from begging

It’s your job to ensure that your dog gets what they need, but not necessarily what they want. Even if they look incredibly cute asking for just one little bite. But if you are worried about your dog’s eating habits or you think it’s unusual for them to always be hungry, it’s a good idea to get them checked out by your vet.

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