Dog Behavior: Begging at the table

Imagine that you just sat down to a nice turkey dinner with all the trimmings. The pumpkin pie is still warming in the oven and you look down—- and there’s your dog -begging at the table. It’s the holidays so “you share,” but sharing doesn’t stop at one bite. This bad dog behavior has never stopped with one bite. Your dog knows this all too well. That’s why he doesn’t go away. There’s more to come!

Then add 15 dinner guests. Your dog thinks he’s just won the power ball jackpot.

dog begging at the table

Now imagine 15 dinner guests seated and your dog is lying on his dog bed by the fire place working a Kong toy. No barking and definitely no begging at the table.

Which would you prefer?

I’ve seen both scenarios and I know which I prefer. That’s right, the dog on the bed. But most owners are nurturers and they love their dogs almost to a fault, don’t you?

I get besieged by calls every holiday season to fix begging at the table. I’ve seen it all too. One owner even had a place setting at the table for the dog with Grandma’s fine china and that’s no joke. It’s not just in the movies!

They just want me to come over and quickly “tweak” or “fine tune” the family dog before the guests arrive. Of course if you’ve been feeding your family pet “hand-to-mouth” from the table for years he’s probably going to need a lot more than “fine tuning” to get the bugs out.

The ironic thing is, you could have trained the “bedded dog” scenario just as easily as you trained your “begging dog” if you knew then what I’m about to tell you now.

If you are still interested in doing some tweaking on your own, here are a few tips.

Tips to “Reverse Train” Begging at the Table

  • To begin with “never feed your dog from t he table.” I just had to get that out there and I know that if you’re reading this you’ve already “done the dirty.”
  • It’s important for every family member to participate 110%
  • STOP all feeding from the table and DO NOT look at, talk to or touch your dog during mealtimes. Paying attention to your dog allows him to think something is about to happen and it actually encourages begging.
  • It’s always a good idea to decide what you would prefer your dog to do instead of beg at the table. Most owners would be happy if their dog just lied down on his dog bed during mealtimes.

Teach the behavior you want

  • Spend time teaching your dog to go his dog bed so that you can use it during mealtimes. One thing that is true with dog training is that repetitive consistency breeds habit in dogs. 
  • You’ve just got to work your dog at every meal and reinforce him staying on his place. Click and treat for going to and staying on his bed. You may want to keep the bed close to the table for quicker re-directs if he gets up and gradually move the bed further away from the table. 
  • Another approach is to tether your dog with his leash on his bed. Tethering him on his bed at every meal will begin to get the behavior you want as well. Eventually you try it without the leash and you have the good dog you want.

Bring a big helping of patience to the table as well. Take it slowly. Look how long you’ve been reinforcing begging at the table! It could take a while but persistence pays off. You will both be happier. Just think, you won’t have to board or crate your dog when you have dinner guests.

Thanks for letting me share my dog training knowledge with you. I hope you found some alternative behaviors for your dog to do. Don’t be a stranger. I’d love to hear what you think. Please come over to my Facebook page to let me know how this article gave you some new training ideas. Remember:

“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.