The easiest way to stop dogs from begging for food is also the hardest way—refusing to share your food, that is. People tend to give in and throw a scrap or two to stop their dog’s whining and whimpering, but this rewards and encourages the behavior, just as buying toys for a crying child encourages temper tantrums. Begging is a learned behavior, but with persistence and a consistent set of rules, you can help your dog unlearn this maddening habit.
Rule #1: Do Not Share Human Food
This rule is the most effective measure, and it’s important that everyone in your household follows it at all times. What makes training a dog in a family situation is that everyone has different commands for the dog and different expectations and the dog only gets confused. Your dog’s begging for food may worsen after you implement this rule, but she will eventually give up if everyone refuses to give in.
Rule #2: Do Not Yank Your Food Away
If your dog tends to stick her nose in your plate or crowd you when you’re eating, your immediate reaction may be to yank your dish out of her reach. Instead, leave your dish where it is and direct her to go lie down in another area. When you repeatedly move your food out of her reach, she may perceive it as a game and strive harder to get it.
Rule #3: Set a Consistent and Structured Meal Schedule
Feed your dog at the same time each day—and make her work for her food. Dogs prefer routine and are more receptive to training when they are on a consistent schedule. By feeding her after exercise or after she obeys a few simple commands, you teach her that her own food is a reward for good behavior.
Rule #4: Eat in a Separate Area from the Dog
If your dog tends to hang around the dinner table while you eat, confine her to a separate area during meal times. This is where a crate comes in very handy. If she is going to display bad unacceptable manners, then off to the crate she must go. If she is used to getting food scraps, she may refuse to eat her own dog food if you forbid her from your dining area. Not to worry, though, as this protest is often short-lived. Take her out for plenty of exercise each day and she will gladly return to dog chow.
Rule #5: Ignore the Negative and Reward the Positive
Any positive attention that you give your dog for begging, whether it’s food or an affectionate cuddle, will only reinforce the behavior. Her whining and whimpering may tug at your heart, but it’s critical that you ignore her attempts to sway you. Instead, give her treats and affection when she is quiet and submissive to you.
If you want to share food with your dog on occasion without having her beg for it, you can do so by teaching her that it’s only acceptable to eat with your permission. Your practice of making her work for meals sets the foundation for this. However, once you stop your dog from begging for food, it’s usually best not to entice her with scraps, as it may trigger her tendency to whine for rewards. If I want to give her something from the table I will put it in her dish and only after everyone has left the table.