Quite possibly one of the most irritating of bad behaviors is a begging dog. It is engendered by a spectrum of possible actions from the ignorable silent stare (which my dog favors!), all the way to barking, pawing, whining, and nudging that cannot be overlooked. Sorry to tell you, folks, most dogs are taught to beg by us, their loving people!

It’s so tempting to sneak your dog a tasty morsel while you’re watching TV and snacking on popcorn, chips and pretzels. You may even laugh as you teach your dog to  catch it. Dogs are fast learners. They see the “picture” of you sitting in the spot where you fed them and they think that they know what’s coming next. The first time that your dog signals to you (a stare, a whine, a bark, a nudge, a paw) and you give the dog what he wants, you have taught him to beg. He gets what he wants by staring, whining, barking, etc. My dog knows the sound of the spoon scraping the last drops of ice cream from the bowl. He knows that he gets to lick the bowl when I’m finished. When he still had his hearing, he would come running from another room when he heard that sound!

Our human brains think that by giving the dog what he wants when he begs, it will satisfy the dog and the behavior will stop: “I’ll just give Rover a piece of my steak to quiet him.” Wrong! You’ve just reinforced the behavior and taught the dog that he gets what he wants when he barks, stares, whines, etc. Most begging behavior will escalate to downright obnoxiousness if you continue to indulge the dog.

How do you stop begging behavior? It’s not easy and will require diligence, patience and consistency from everyone. When the dog begs, you must ignore him completely. Yes, I know it will be stressful to listen to your dog barking at you during dinner or while you’re trying to watch the game. But it’s vital to show your dog that he gets nothing by being pushy. And everyone who interacts with your dog must adhere to this policy.  Eventually, your dog will get the message that nothing is coming his way.

In addition to ignoring the begging, teach your dog an alternative behavior. Have your dog practice an extended down-stay when you’re eating dinner. This will take practice but as we know, anything that pays off requires some work.  And if you really, really want to share your food with your dog, place it in his bowl. Have him sit and wait, then give it to him.  As for my dog and ice cream, he must lie down quietly or else he gets nothing. When the bowl is ready for him to lick, I ask for a paw and a kiss.

A well-mannered dog is such a pleasure to be around!