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Does Your Dog Have Horrible Table Manners?

Victoria Stilwell shares her tips for stoping begging at the table -- just in time for the holidays!

Victoria Stilwell  |  Nov 17th 2015


Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our October/November issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

When was the last time you enjoyed a meal at home without a pair of pleading eyes staring at you the entire time? If your dog has less than ideal table manners, it’s time to make some changes!

You can stop your dog from begging with just a few easy training techniques, but the most important factor is your consistency.

Are you part of the begging problem? Are you setting a double standard for your dog by feeding him from the table and then expecting him not to beg? As long as you continue to reinforce his begging with food, however infrequently, your dog will never be able to ditch the habit. If you’re committed to never feeding your dog from the table again, you can start teaching him a new routine during mealtimes.

Are you ready to finally eat in peace? Read on!

The invisible line

First, try the “create an invisible line” approach.

  • To set your dog up for success, start this training without food on the table, and gradually build up to a normal meal. This technique is also much easier if you have already taught your dog what the word “stay” means.
  • Pick a spot away from the table, and create an invisible line that you do not want your dog to cross until you have finished eating.
  • Lead your dog behind the invisible line, and tell him to stay.
  • Sit down at the table.
  • If your dog starts to walk toward the table, get up and use your body to block him until he backs up past the invisible line again.
  • At no point should you yell at your dog or physically move him in any way.
  • Sit back down, and quietly praise him for staying behind the line. If he moves over the line again, repeat the exercise.
  • When your dog consistently stays behind the line, bring out some food and start eating. Try cold food first, and gradually work up to the warm, smelly stuff that’s more tempting and harder for your dog to resist.
  • Depending on how persistent your dog is, this technique may take time and numerous repetitions to get right, but if you are consis- tent, your dog will learn that he cannot cross that invisible line until mealtimes are over and you have released him from his Stay position.
  • If you have more than one dog, teach this technique to each dog separately before putting them together.

Too much temptation

Is your dog just too tempted by the food on the table? If the invisible-line approach is too difficult, other options may work better for your persistent pooch.

  • Give your dog something else to do. If he doesn’t mind being crated, contain him in a crate during mealtimes, or keep him behind a baby gate.
  • If you choose to crate your dog during meals, avoid closing the door and leaving him in there with nothing to do. Give him an interactive toy stuffed with his favorite treats. Peanut butter is a great option for stuffing an interactive toy. If possible, choose a brand with the least amount of added ingredients.
  • By taking this approach, your mealtimes are still fun and enjoyable for your dog, and you have eliminated begging at the table.
  • If your dog has little-to-no impulse control and just cannot contain himself during your meals, shut him out of your eating area altogether while you eat either by containing him behind a baby gate or putting him in another room.
  • If you choose this approach, you should still give your dog something to do. A favorite toy or bone is an easy way to keep him occupied while you eat.
    Consider why your dog struggles with impulse control. It might be a sign that it’s time to increase his physical exercise and mental stimulation or that you need to feed him three meals a day instead of one or two, as hunger is very likely driving his persistent behavior.
  • Depending on your dog’s physical health, add an extra walk or game of fetch into your daily routine, or even look into participating in a dog sport. Burning that excess energy will make training easier, and you will hopefully be able to graduate to one of the other above training techniques more easily.

There are so many easy ways to stop your dog from begging, but they all start with you being consistent! As soon as you commit to never feeding your dog from the table again, you will be able to enjoy more peaceful mealtimes.

Read more by Victoria Stilwell on Dogster:

About the author: Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer, TV personality, author, and public speaker best known as the star of the international hit TV series
 It’s Me or the Dog, through which she reaches audiences in more than 100 countries. Appearing frequently in the worldwide media, Stilwell is widely recognized as a leader in the field of animal behavior, and is the editor-in-chief 
of Positively.com and the CEO of Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Training, the world’s premier global network of positive reinforcement dog trainers. Connect with her on Facebook and on Twitter.