With Turkey Day waddling closer, you’re likely giddy just thinking about gobbling up those Thanksgiving goodies with your family.
This joyous time of year also brings visitors with it— sometimes, lots of them. With the hours you’ll spend perfecting poultry and primping your home, it’s easy to overlook one key holiday component: your dog.
With the biggest food day of the year around the corner, you want to make sure your pooch’s manners are in check to prevent the dreaded wiggles and whines (or worse, drool) that come with begging.
Not sure how to stop this bad behavior? Don’t sweat it. With a few adjustments, you and your guests can enjoy your holiday meal in peace.
Keep reading, and we’ll explain how to stop your dog’s begging behavior below!
Why Should You Teach Your Dog Not to Beg?
As cute as our canines are, no one wants to see spit bubbles between spoonfuls of mashed potatoes.
Not only is teaching your dog to mind his own business during meals helpful to you year-round, but your visitors will feel more comfortable not having sad puppy dog eyes fixed on their every move at the table. This is especially the case if your pooch has a habit of pawing at people for food.
Teaching your dog not to beg will keep them safer, too, preventing food-snatching behavior that isn’t only rude but also dangerous. The high-fat dishes of the holiday can lead to painful bouts of pancreatitis, and a stray turkey bone can spell disaster.
As we all know, not every bone is safe, with choking, broken teeth, and oral lacerations just some of the risks, and that’s before they’re swallowed! An ingested bone is equally risky, potentially leading to obstructions or perforations of the digestive tract. Not only are these painful and pricey to fix, but they can also be deadly.
How to Teach Your Dog Not to Beg
Teaching your dog not to beg is easier than you’d think. Ideally, it should be taught from an early age, but you certainly can teach an old dog new tricks.
Before we get started, it’s important to ensure that everyone in the household is on board with the training regimen.
You could follow every step in the book to a T, but one kink in the training regiment will undermine your efforts. Run a tight ship during training, and your pup will learn not to beg faster.
The Most Effective Way to Stop Begging Behavior: Only Feed Your Dog from Their Bowl
The single most important strategy for stopping begging behavior is to stop feeding them from the table. Your dog should only be fed from his bowl, and never given scraps from the table — no exceptions.
You’ll be surprised to see just how quickly this will train your dog to stop looking for food when you sit down to eat. If they're fed in the dining room, you may need to start feeding them in a different room, especially with the holidays coming.
Note that you can still give your dog training treats and delicious doggo snacks. Just make sure you don’t do so from the table.
Pro-tip: Leave some of their favorite healthy treats, like Beef Cuts (link to product page) in a bowl for guests to share with the dog instead of table scraps.
Additional Strategies to Stop Your Dog’s Dinner Table Begging
In addition to not feeding your dog from the table, there are several other things you can do to help eliminate begging behavior.
- Do not pay your dog any attention when you are eating, whether you’re seated at the table or not. This will discourage begging behavior, as he won’t anticipate food as a reward for seeking your attention while you’re eating.
- Don’t scold your dog when they do beg. Any attention at the table— even negative attention— is too much. Despite not getting food, they’ll associate begging with getting a reaction out of you.
- Try mat training to teach your dog how to relax. Dog mat training can be used to train your dog to associate lying down and relaxing with a certain mat. You won’t be able to just whip out a bath towel on Thanksgiving and expect your pup to ignore all those tasty smells, but if you start dog mat training a few weeks prior, your pooch will already associate mat time with quietly relaxing, even around a chaotic kitchen. Dogs with little impulse control, such as puppies, may not be able to succeed in this tricky task.
- Another option is to have them leave the room and issue a “stay” command in a comfortable place like their bed or crate. If they return to the dining area, return them to the space and reissue the command. This may take repeated attempts, but keep a level head and maintain firm but calm guidance. Of course, you can also simply shut the crate, But your dog would probably appreciate the crate door remaining open, so you may as well try to teach them to stay put with the door open.
Lastly, understand that consistency is key. Make a plan and stick with it, even after Thanksgiving. Reverting back to bad habits not only regresses training but can also lead to unnecessary stress for you and your dog. Don’t force your pup to be a mind reader about what is and isn’t okay.
Learning the Leave It Command
Tied into teaching your dog not to beg is teaching them the “leave it” command. This is vital in protecting your pooch if a harmful item is dropped or in reach.
You can teach this command by holding a treat in a clenched hand and offering it to them to sniff. Most dogs will eagerly lick or even paw at the hand. Do not allow them to access the treat, but continue to hold your hand out.
Once he ignores the hand, give them a tasty treat you’ve hidden away with the opposite hand as a reward.
After a few rounds of this, you can throw in your chosen verbal command, whether it’s “Leave it” or something else. You will gradually work up to offering the treat in an open hand while seeking the same result.
In the end, your dog will associate “Leave it” with a future reward rather than the present goodie. My dog learned this command by playing a game called “It’s Yer Choice!”.
If All Else Fails, Gate Off Your Dog
Sometimes all the training in the world won’t work with a food-obsessed pup, and that’s okay.
Don’t take it to heart, or feel like it’s your fault. For these chow-happy hounds, your best bet will be to corral them away from the dining area, whether it’s shutting them in a room via a closed door or utilizing a quality indoor dog gate in a safe, dog-proof space.
Securing them in a crate is another option, but if your dog is not already crate trained, they might have an easier time being gated in a nearby room than being completely closed off in a crate.
To keep them from whining or causing a ruckus, give them a new chew toy to stay busy, try out a snuffle matt, or offer up one of their favorite boredom busting chews, like a Redbarn Bully Barbell to keep them occupied.
Gate or Crate Alternatives
If your dog is prone to stressing out over guests or can’t be confined because of anxiety, you may want to look into doggy CBD oil to get through the holiday season.
Don’t worry – this natural oil won’t get them high as a doggy kite. Many owners have found that CBD helps to reduce their dog’s anxiety and keep their canine calmer. Just be sure to discuss the use of CBD oils with your vet before administering it to your pooch.
Remember to keep things fun! Teaching your dog not to beg doesn’t have to be a chore. Learning something new presents an opportunity to bond and stay engaged. While you’re at it, maybe you can teach them a nifty trick to show guests as an after-dinner treat.
Do you have a begging pup at home? What are your tips for having a stress-free holiday with your dog? Let us know in the comments below!
About the Guest Author: Meg Marrs is the CEO of K9 of Mine, a dog care resource website dedicated to helping owners better care for their canine companions.