All dog owners will have experienced those puppy dog eyes as your dog begs for food. Sometimes it can even ramp up to barking and begging for food, which is extremely difficult to deal with… until now.
Below you can read my step-by-step guide explaining how to teach a dog to stop begging for food when you are eating. It worked for us as our dog stopped begging and barking and has been well-behaved and patient ever since (well, most of the time).
How to stop a dog barking and begging for food?
Begging is one of the most common behavior problems in dogs, and of course, the simplest solution is to stop giving them food. They will eventually learn that there’s no chance you ever sharing anything with them.
Of course, training behavior like this takes a long time. You can supplement this with other commands and distractions.
I detail all of them in this post, so below are the best ways you can stop your dog constantly begging for food when you are eating.
1. Don’t give food to your begging dog
Simple enough, right? Well, not so much for the soft-hearted of us.
But this is a crucial first step in changing your pet’s behavior and moving towards a point where your dog stops begging for food… but you will need to stick to your guns, no matter how much your dog likes treats.
Begging is inherently attention-seeking. Your dog needs to learn that begging will not get them anything, especially barking when you are eating.
Slipping up even once will make behavior reversal much more difficult. So, in a way, you also have to train yourself to stop giving your dog a reason to beg for food when you eat.
2. Do not interact with your begging dog
Withholding all attention and affection from your begging dog will go a long way in teaching them to stop. Not giving them food is easy enough but take it a step further: don’t talk to them, don’t touch them, and don’t even make eye contact.
It won’t be easy, but correcting this behavior is more important.
Ignoring your dog is only the first step, however. You will have to train him or her further to replace the begging behavior with another command.
3. Keep your dog occupied
Teach your dog to do something else when it’s time for dinner. Give them a chew toy to keep them occupied as you and your family eat in peace. Your dog will then enjoy having his or her own treat as everyone is eating. This is often the best way you can stop your dog barking when you are eating.
You can also designate your dog’s daily exercise time before dinner. Taking them out for a walk or playing fetch for 20 to 30 minutes will tire them out thoroughly.
Let them back in the house and give them some water, and they won’t have much energy left to pester you at the table.
They might even fall asleep if you are lucky!
4. Feed your dog first
Right before your own dinner, give your dog his or her own food first, preferably in a separate room.
That way, they’ll be too busy savoring their own meal and won’t beg you for food while you eat yours.
5. Give your dog his or her own place
When you’re about to sit down for a meal, train your dog to go to his or her own place – designate a comfortable cushion, or use their dog bed. An initial step you can take is to tether them to the spot and give them something to keep their attention, so they learn to enjoy staying there.
Once your dog gets used to it, you will be able to keep them there without a tether.
Train them with a specific command such as “place” or “bed”, and make it an automatic association with meal times.
6. Create physical barriers
If your dog persists in begging for food at your dinner table, a simple way to keep them away is to use a baby gate to physically keep them outside the dining area.
If they’re crate trained, you can keep them there as you eat, as long as they’re comfortable and distracted with an alternative activity.
After you take the barrier away, make sure to give them a small reward of some kind – a walk, or some one-on-one quality time.
However, this might not stop your dog barking when you are eating if they have a line of sight of the dinner table, so perhaps put them in a different room altogether.
7. Don’t feel sorry for your begging dog
Don’t let yourself get carried away with their puppy dog eyes. You are the one who feeds your own dog, so you know firsthand that he or she is not in danger of going hungry.
As long as you keep your dog on a consistent feeding schedule, there shouldn’t be any doubt in your mind that he or she is perfectly healthy and full. Puppies and dogs can go for hours without eating depending on their age.
Again, begging is an act of seeking attention, and generally has nothing to do with whether or not your dog is hungry.
8. Be consistent in your approach
Behavior reversal will only work if you are consistent about it. Make sure everyone in your house stays strong in the face of your begging dog and that you all refuse to give food under any circumstances.
Tell this to all your visitors, too. Every single time your dog gets rewarded, it’s a huge backslide in the journey to correcting their behavior.
When you take your dog to special events such as cookouts or picnics with friends and family, be just as vigilant, and make sure no one slips your dog any food.
9. Be patient with the training
No dog changes his or her behavior overnight. Training dogs to stop begging for food will take time, especially if they’ve gotten used to being rewarded over the last few months or years.
There will be many moments of frustration, but don’t give up. A well-behaved dog is very much worth the effort.
10. Don’t shout at your begging dog
Training is a journey, and there are many moments where you’ll be annoyed at your dog for not following instructions. Yelling at a dog will only teach them to be scared of you, and that is not the correct approach.
Don’t punish your dog for behavior that he or she likely learned from you in the first place, because you used to reward the begging. It’s all about positive reinforcement: reward good behavior with a treat each time.
As your dog keeps improving, spread out the intervals between each treat.
Before you know it, you will only need to give your dog one treat to distract them from the dinner table. You will eventually be able to enjoy your own respective activities.
11. Don’t give up
Fortunately, stopping begging behavior is one of the easiest to curtail in dogs. It’s all about consistency, positive reinforcement, verbal cues, and most of all, patience.
But also don’t beat yourself up.
From a nutritional standpoint, it’s actually fine for dogs to eat “people food” in small amounts. An occasional bite or two from your dinner will not harm your dog as long as you keep track of food items and ingredients that are toxic to them (for example chocolate, macadamia nuts, anything too salty, sugary, or fatty).
If you keep giving them scraps from the table, though, it can lead to nutritional imbalance and obesity, which can then lead to other health problems.
But really, the main problem with a perpetually begging dog is that you are encouraging bad behavior.
And let’s face it – it’s pretty annoying.
It didn’t use to matter if I was preparing a meal, sitting at the table for dinner, or checking the fridge for a midnight snack – my dog would always know when there was a chance of a treat or quick snack.
Naturally, I was that hapless owner who would give him what he wanted because I love him – and because I don’t want him to bother the whole house with his whining and barking.
But it needed to stop.
I was patient and followed the steps above to stop my dog constantly begging for food, and guess what?
It worked, and I hope it will for you too!
You might also like…
Here are more food and training related guides you might enjoy reading.