Mealtime Barking Got You Miffed?


 My Secret to Fixing Mealtime Barking


barking at mealtimes, Jim Burwell

I know you get annoyed at your dog for barking during dinner. Dinner is that time of day when you’re trying to unwind and spend some stress free time with your family.

But the barking ruins a perfectly good meal.

It’s always a good idea when you have a dog behavior issue to step back and see what or if you are or have contributed to the bad behavior.

Take this behavior on barking during mealtime and let’s see just how much attention you gave this behavior.

Assuming your dog doesn’t have to go potty outside, he is more than likely barking at you for attention and to see what else he gets from you if he barks.

If you yelled at your dog with a stern verbal correction like, “Shut up!” or “Quiet!” you probably just reinforced his barking.

Remember, just like kids, even getting yelled at is still attention.

There are 3 ways you can give your dog attention. I call it TLC

  • DON’T TOUCH (physical contact of any kind)
  • DON’T LOOK AT (eye contact)
  • DON’T COMMUNICATE (talk to)

You are probably guilty of giving him attention in at least 2 out of the 3 ways above during his barking at the table.

If he was bold enough to put his paws on your leg as he barked, you more than likely pushed him off (touch).

You looked at him as you said: (eye contact)

“Shut up!” (communication)

 Ideas For Your Ill-Mannered Mutt

Try thinking back on what may be missing (that attention) in your relationship with your dog.

Has he received dog training every day? Training gives your dog the attention he needs in a positive and constructive way. It helps you build  strong communication and listening skills  with him.

If you train every day, you begin to gain his respect as who he should look to for guidance,  through obedience training. Working on sits and downs can develop  discipline with  other commands with your dog – like staying on his bed during mealtime.

Are you exercising your dog? Have you ever heard the phrase “A tired dog is a good dog?” A long, brisk walk is another positive and constructive way to give your dog attention.

My Secret Fix for Mealtime Barking

If you’ve read my two ideas above and you’re already doing all of that, it’s time to let you in on my secret fix.

You’ll be surprised at how easy it is.

Here’s my fix: Do absolutely nothing. You heard right. Nothing!
The next time your dog decides to bark at mealtime, don’t do anything.

Remember the three ways we give our dog attention?

Remember TLC?

  • DO NOT touch (push off your dog),
  • DO NOT look at (absolutely no eye contact) or
  • DO NOT talk to your dog.

Do absolutely nothing. Just eat your dinner.

Here’s the thing about extinguishing this kind of unwanted behavior in this way.

Dogs Do What Works for Them 

If the last time your dog barked at you and you gave him TLC in some form or fashion – you just reinforced the barking.

Understand that during your process of “doing nothing” your dog barking to get what he wants, is perfectly natural.

You will then develop the patience you need to wait him out.

Here’s what to expect:

Your dog’s barking will get worse before it gets better

If barking is not working for him, he may try other things to get your attention like jumping up on you.

As you continue to not provide him with any feedback at all, (TLC), the barking for attention will subside and eventually stop altogether.
Be forewarned:  he may try barking again a week or so after he’s been quiet just to see if it will work.

Just do nothing. Absolutely nothing. It will finally flat line and go away.

Make sure your dog is getting his attention fix in other positive and constructive ways.

Together We Can Raise A Happy and Obedient Dog

You got your dog for a reason. You wanted to share your life with a happy and loving dog. But now, your dog has big problems and life is not happy.
I can help you get that happy, well behaved dog back. We’ll work together at your speed and both you and your dog will have fun every step of the way.

10 replies
  1. Kim
    Kim says:

    Hi Jim, thanks for the info. My doggenerally barks while my kids are eating, i think he expects food. I want to spend a bit more time training him did he will eventually sit on his bed on command, however he’s 8. Have i left it too late?

  2. Jim
    Jim says:

    Blanca – re-read the article I specifically advise to Not engage your dog when he is barking. Engagement is what he wants and everytime you engage with him because he’s barking at you – you’ve just reiforced the behavior.

  3. Blanca
    Blanca says:

    I don’t want to engage my dog when he’s barking but I live in an apartment and can’t let him continue to bark for too long—neighbors have complained to landlord. Help!!

  4. Gill
    Gill says:

    Hello. We have been experiencing a worsening of our dog’s barking in a number of situations but often it’s when we are sitting at the dining table, eating. He is especially difficult if we have guests for dinner. It’s been really quite stressful at times.
    I’ve been trying to pursuade my husband of the need for a consistent and unified approach that all family members and visitors to the house will take. It’s frustrating because in many more ways, our dog is lovely, but he can exhibit nuisance behaviour that can really irritate. He is exercised and stimulated and I certainly believe it’s enough, though of course I don’t know what ‘enough’ is. He’s a Whippet and so, they can as a breed be a little on the anxious side I know, but he is living in a calm and stable household. I would like to get to the point where he is quiet when we eat and when we have guests to eat and where he uses barking less for attention seeking and more correctly as an alert if required. Any ideas welcome! Thanks

  5. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Marianne — Thanks for your comment. Not sure I’m clear if you are trying to leave to go out without your dog OR leash him up to walk. But since you said, “I was trying to collar him” I’ll assume you are trying to collar him up for a walk. Try incremental steps to your goal. When you first get the leash – HE’S BARKING – put the leash away and resume what you were doing before you decided to take him out. Do this as many times as necessary to desensitize him to you getting the leash AND HE’S NOT BARKING. Next, get the leash and walk to him to leash him up. At the point he starts to BARK, simply put the leash away and ignore your pup. Do this as many times as necessary to desensitize him to you getting the leash and walking towards him AND HE’S NOT BARKING. The next step is to repeat the previous step but add attaching his leash to his collar. And yes, do this as many times as necessary to desensitize him to you getting the leash and walking towards him, attaching his leash AND HE’S NOT BARKING. By now you have the idea. If he wants to walk – no barking. HOpe this helps.

  6. Marianne DeBonis
    Marianne DeBonis says:

    Hello Jim,
    I love your weekly articles and I have been using your ideas non stop. However, I too have a dog with a barking issue but it’s when we are getting ready to go out. Every time no matter what I do he goes bananas barking and running around with his ball etc. He is a German Shepherd Puppy 15 months old. He barks so loud that he almost broke my ear drum when I was trying to collar him. I think I have tried everything. He gets lots of play time and walks. I also do daily sit stay training and he is doing well with that, except when we are going out. Please Help.


  7. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Cate: Everyone is different, if this works for you then I wouldn’t worry about it. You can always, have her earn getting her toy thrown. At least
    that way she is not getting mixed messages from you.

  8. Cate
    Cate says:

    Good tip Jim. Winnie doesn’t bark at mealtimes necessarily, but often when we’ve just sat down to watch a little TV in the evening and this after we’ve walked her for a brisk mile! Sometimes she has extra energy and wants to play so she’ll bring a toy over and bark until we get up and throw it. I know we are the ones that are supposed to initiate play, but sometimes we let the little schnauzer dog get away with ruling the roost. Thanks for your great dog tips, I enjoy reading and learning from them.

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