Is Your Dog a Beggar?
When a dog begs, he’s not asking for change for a cup of coffee – he just wants some attention. Should you give in and give it?
Those big, sad eyes… that hungry stare… that pathetic whimpering… the paw that beseeches: Are you susceptible to your dog’s well-practiced skills for demanding attention and wrangling treats? If you answered “yes,” you’re not alone.
Sometimes a dog’s begging is a way of communicating an urgent need. They can’t cry like babies to tell you a diaper needs changing, but when they nuzzle and prod without let up, they might be reminding you a walk is critical or it’s mealtime and the bowl is empty. So don’t brush a dog off without considering the cause.
As dog lovers, we take pleasure in indulging our pets (as anyone who shares a bed with a four-footed friend can attest). Responding when one begs for food reinforces bad behavior that can lead to excess weight and even gastric distress for your dog. Plus, it’s annoying to be interrupted by an insistent paw when you’re trying to concentrate on something else.
Even if you only provide an extra nibble or healthy treat once in a while, you’ve taught your dog that it’s worth the effort to whine. Quick learners, dogs are willing to gamble that begging will pay off (and really, what else do they have to do with their time?). The unwelcome result is that you now find yourself with a supplicant at every meal, snack, and opening of the refrigerator.
Just Say No!
How you react when your dog begs can curtail begging behavior — or encourage it. The best way to thwart begging is to never give in, not even once. Too late for that? Once you permit bad behavior, it is likely to continue for a while after you quit reinforcing it. But with time and practice, you can do it.
Tips for Turning Beggars into Quitters
- Go cold turkey. No more unscheduled snacks. And don’t relent, not even a little. Consistency is key.
- Ignore them when they start to whine. Don’t look at them or speak to them or mention their name to your companion.
- Get in the habit of taking a good walk together before your meal. If you tire them out, they may spend mealtime sleeping.
- Only feed dogs from their bowls. Don’t provide food anywhere else. And think twice about adding table scraps at feeding time.
- Give your dog a cue that things have changed by changing your own mealtime habits. Eat in a different place in your home or do something that you don’t usually do at mealtime, such as listening to loud music (it can drown out whining).
- Take your meals away from the dog’s line of vision. Put them in another room when you eat.
- Give them something to occupy themselves while you eat. They can’t beg if they’re busy with a toy or chew bone.
- No means no! Once you say it, don’t change your mind.
Keep in mind that it takes a short while to form a bad habit but a long time to break a bad one — but you can do it!