By Stacy Braslau-Schneck
From Exceptional Canine

Imagine what your meal smells like to a dog's incredibly sensitive nose! Those rich, savory smells are instinctively attractive to dogs because dogs came into domestication by eating our scraps.

But rude mooching or stealing behaviors should not be tolerated. And there are steps you can take to stop your dog from begging.

Behavior that's rewarded is repeated, so dogs that are given bits and pieces of your meal will persist in whatever behavior they think earned them those goodies. This is true whether they sit politely and stare at you longingly or more rudely paw, whine, bark or jump up on you or the counter.

The best thing to do for quiet moochers is to flat out ignore them: Do not respond to their entreaties, even with attention. If begging never pays off, the behavior will eventually stop.

But beware of the "just this once" mentality: If you ever reward begging during this extinction process, it will persist like a gambler's habit.

Use Management and Training

Management and alternative training (redirection) more effectively teach your dog to stop begging; they also help you to withstand the more obnoxious demands of a dog that jumps on you, paws or barks.

Use a tether (a leash or plastic-coated cable), crate, baby gate or pen to prevent your dog from making physical contact with you. This management technique is vitally important for dogs that have learned to steal food off of plates, counters or tables. Employ this method when preparing or serving food.

In other circumstances, it's essential to place food out of the dog's reach. For most dogs, this means clearing counters completely.

Try Food Toys

Another effective technique: praising your dog by offering a treat-stuffed toy (which also focuses its attention away from your dinner). Food-motivated canines are often better-served if you stuff their meal into a rubber chew toy (such as a Kong, for wet food) or a food-dispensing toy (such as a Kibble Nibble or Wobbler, for dry food).

Set up a "success station" with a dog bed or towel accompanied by a tether, pen or crate. Before your meal, lead your dog there, praise it for getting on its spot, set up your confinement system and give the dog its food toy.


Stacy Braslau-Schneck is a longtime dog trainer and a professional member of the Association of Dog Pet Trainers. She works closely with the Human Society Silicon Valley and is the owner of Stacy's Wag'N'Train, which offers small group classes and private lessons in San Jose, Calif. Stacy writes frequently for Exceptional Canine.

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