Can I PLEASE have some?
"Can I try that?"
A phrase that we have all heard when you order or have something that just smells too good to our friends/family/ or other person sitting next to us. Admit it, we have all had those moments, but how about our pets? How do they ask us that? Well, for starters that "can I please have some" look usually is something along the line of them being in our laps, looking up at us with big eyes, sitting too close to us and/or just waiting. Have you ever wondered why you dog begs for food? I mean we do feed them, and give them treats every now and then they shouldn't be hungry... Well begging at the table is one of the most common things I get questions so here are some tips and good rules of thumb to follow to help reduce those big brown eyes looking at you get every time you cook up a burger (or in my case a meat substitute!).
Now anyone who has trained with me knows how much I like to use hot dogs, beef jerky and other delicious meats when training our best friends. Many of you have also asked me, or at least heard someone ask me, or thought the question in your head of "won't this make our dog start to beg?" Well the answer is as simple as I have said before, "no." The main reason that dogs learn to beg is due to a reinforcement history with receiving food at the table while you are eating. So the answer is simple, don't feed the dog at the table, and you won't get a dog who watches every move you make when you are eating. I can attest to this directly in my household, for you those of you who haven't already heard this one, there's a special someone (not me) who likes to sneak food to the dogs while we are eating. Now that same special someone knows that a dog fed while you are eating will continue to watch you while you are eating in order to get food. Fast forward, none of the dogs beg from me at the table or if I am sitting on the floor eating a bowl of ice cream but all the dogs beg from the special someone anytime food is present because maybe they will receive an extra snack.
But what if I haven't fed the dog at the table before?
Yes, sometimes your dog will still watch you or try to come over while you are eating. Every time you look at them while you are eating, you are giving them attention. Every time you tell them to go away you are giving them attention. So how do we fix this? Give them something else to do! If you have a Kong, use that, if you have a puzzle toy (need ideas? Check out the post on enrichment), use that. We want to implement a management solution here so the dog does not have access to you or the table while you are eating. A dog that does not know they can go sit by the table will not go to sit by the table...
The all important leave it:
You can also teach your dog a good leave it cue in order to help discourage them from eating the food presented on the floor, while you're cooking, eating ... etc. Leave it is a wonderful tool that will not only save your dog's life but it is crucial in order to have a reliable recall. What if you drop food or medication on the ground and your dog get's a hold of it? I am sure that is not a bill you will want to be paying in the future.
Without getting into the whole process of teaching a dog leave it, I do hope that this article has helped answer some questions in regards to table food or 'people food' and dogs.
For more info on training leave it, or to teach your dog to not beg just click here for a contact form!