Does your dog beg for handouts while you eat your own meal? Initially, we may find it endearing when a perky pup sneaks under the dining table to beg for a bite. We might even enjoy the way he cozies up to us to lick little morsels from our hands.
Some of us have even tried to hand off undesirable portions to a canine companion, either at home or at a host's house.
But begging dogs quickly become pests to family members and guests.
American novelist Washington Irving said, "A barking dog is often more useful than a sleeping lion." That may be true, but not at dinnertime. During dining, a begging, whining, barking dog is distracting and unpleasant.
In fact, a food-aggressive dog can become downright dangerous, once he begins begging at the table. He may nip at diners' fingers, or even jump up to grab provisions.
How can you teach your dog not to beg at the table?
Try these 10 tactics to prevent this rude canine behavior and train your dog in mealtime manners. These tried-and-true techniques have trained many dogs in our home and countless canines in other households.
1. Never feed your dog at the table.
This practice teaches your pet to associate your dining habits with his own desire for food. Don't even pet your dog while you are eating.
"Begging is an attention-seeking behavior," explains Cesar Milan, the popular "Dog Whisperer." "Rather than give in to your dog's demands, ignore the behavior and teach your dog that it does not get results!"
2. Set a strict daily feeding routine for your dog.
Feed him at the same times and place every day. Offer only dog food, as this provides optimum health benefits and eliminates confusion over whose food is whose.
"Many behavior and medical problems can be attributed to poor diet, so make sure your dog is eating the very best," says Victoria Stillwell, of Animal Planet's "It's Me or the Dog."
3. Plan your dog's feedings to coincide with your mealtimes.
Fill your dog's dish immediately before you sit down to eat. Set up his feeding location as far as possible from your own dining table.
4. Establish a mealtime pastime for your dog.
Started early and calmly, this simple tactic works well. Direct the dog to his bed to rest while you eat. Docile dogs enjoy these quiet moments, particularly within earshot of the family gathering.
5. Never use food to bribe a begging dog to stop.
If your pet pesters you for a bite during your meal, do not reward this bad behavior by trying to buy him off with a treat. This terrible tactic actually begs the question of begging.
Instead, remove the pet from the dining area.
6. Avoid yelling at the dog, if he begins to beg.
This practice is distasteful to everyone at the table. What's more, shouting offers attention, while likely raising the disobedient dog's energy level. Here's a better response. Quietly stand and take the dog to his quiet spot.
7. Don't punish the begging dog.
It's far more effective to take the pleading pet away from the table, even several times, instead of creating an unpleasant and attention-getting display at mealtime. A dog may see such a scene as a game, rather than long-term training.
8. Confine dog during meals, if needed.
If your pet continues to beg, you may have to keep him in a separate area at mealtimes. Set him outside, in another room, or in his crate. Give him a favorite toy, and switch on soothing music or a television to keep him occupied and to prevent his barking from disrupting your dining.
9. Be persistent with a begging dog.
As with all animal training endeavors, consistency counts. Never give in, particularly while breaking an established begging habit. Expect the pet to challenge the change. Persistence will pay off, but it may take awhile.
10. Remember who is in charge.
A well-trained dog is a treasure for life. As a caring dog owner, you will rejoice to recognize the magic moment when your pet respects you as his leader and stops begging at the table.
More from this contributor: