Many dogs have this annoying habit. They would employ all the power of their large sad eyes to get a piece of that you’re eating. They would place their muzzles on your lap and look like they haven’t eaten for a week. They would make you feel ashamed of starving the poor animal. Dogs know how to get what they want. So, why are they begging so persistently? Even dogs that are not as crazy about food as Milo, sometimes beg. The answer is very simple. Dogs beg, because we taught them too. Remember: any behaviour that is reinforced will be repeated. Behaviours reinforced randomly are more likely to be repeated. If you give way to your dog’s begging even on rare occasions, he will continue begging.
How to stop your dog from begging?
1. Don’t reinforce begging. Attention, even negative, works as reinforcement. If your dog begs, just ignore it: avoid eye contact and don’t push the dog away. I know that it is hard to resist the look of these sad brown eyes, but you must. Remember that you fed the dog enough this morning and that the dog gets regular treats and hugs. Also recalling how many things have been stolen, chewed and eaten helps to resist the temptation. Just ignore the dog.
2. Don’t tempt your dog. Dogs have excellent sense of smell and most of them have poor sense of satiety. Therefore, it is difficult for many dogs to resist the smell of food. Considering this, for some dogs it might be better just to avoid the temptation. You can put the dog in another room when you eat or cook. Another way is to teach your dog to stay on his place while you cook or eat.
3. Work with your family. I can’t remember a single case of begging, which hasn’t involved some tender-hearted grandma or aunt. If just one person yields to begging, there is no chance that you will eliminate this behaviour. At best, the dog will be begging from this person and your guests. Make sure that your family members understand that. If they are still persistent, you can tell them that your dog has sensitive stomach and that anything apart from some special treats and dog food will harm the dog.
Usually, just ignoring begging will achieve satisfactory results. It is up to you to decide to what extent you will accept begging and in which situations you may want to treat your dog. Remember, that there is no norm in these kinds of behaviours. Your goal is to teach your dog what is comfortable for you, not for someone else. For example, I don’t like it, when Milo begs around the dining table, but I enjoy giving him some scraps or vegetable ends, when I cook. Milo knows that, so most of the times he doesn’t pay any attention to our dinners, but would usually hang out near the kitchen entrance, waiting for a treat.