How to Prevent Your Dog From Begging at the Table

Do you feed your dog from the table?

If you answered “yes,” you’re not alone. That act alone doesn’t necessarily mean your dog will beg for food while you’re eating. 

With Thanksgiving around the corner, no one wants a begging dog at the table.

It’s not the fact that you feed food from your plate that causes the begging, it’s ‘how’ and ‘when’ you feed the food.  

We often eat at the coffee table in our small living room. We don’t mind that the dogs are nearby.  They’re part of the family. We do prefer Cody and Cailie to be in a ‘sit’ or a ‘down’ when we put our plates on the table.

We taught each a solid “leave it” making it easy to set the plate down without their sweet muzzles reaching toward our plates.

Once we’re seated, I verbally cue them to ‘down” and they happily comply.   

I might give them a morsel of healthy food from my plate (yes, people food, but not fatty pieces) or a piece of kibble from a small container sitting on the table. 

Remember reinforcement drives behavior.

If your dog is sitting or in a down position when near the table, then by all means give them some food! Any food they like. People food. Dog food. A dog treat. That bit of food you give the dog while in a sit or down reinforces that position. You’ll get more sits or downs. 

On the other hand, if your dog is nudging your arm or breathing on your hand and you deliver a piece of food at that moment, guess what? You’ll get more nudging and breathing on your hand. 

Teach your dog what “to do.”

Before you begin training your dog to sit or down near the table, teach these two impulse control behaviors to your dog – away from the table.

When your dog can reliably “sit” and “down” on a verbal cue or a hand signal, then you’re ready to do some training near the table withemptyplates before training with foodon the plates. 

Use food wisely.

Set your dog up for success so that they get it right. Getting it “right” means they’ll earn reinforcement and the behavior you desire will increase. You can enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner without a begging dog.

Happy Training! 

Lisa Lyle Waggoner is a CPDT-KA, a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training and Behavior, a dog*tec Certified Professional Dog Walker and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina.  She enjoys providing behavior consulting and training solutions to clients in the tri-state area of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as offering educational opportunities and distance consults for clients, dog trainers and dog hobbyists throughout the U.S. and Europe.


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