Dog Tip: Begging
By Robin Tierney
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Why do dogs beg? Because dogs do what works. If your dog begs, chances are, that someone in your household or in the dog's past household rewarded the begging behavior to some degree.
Why is rewarding begging behavior a problem? Because the dog will continue engaging in the behavior as long as it works some of the time. And by indulging the behavior, you put yourself in a position of obeying your dog's commands.
Dogs think about relationships in terms of who is in charge. If the dog is challenging authority, he may interpret your giving up food as a subordinate act, which can lead to problems with dominance aggression.
So often, pet owners unintentionally teach dogs to engage in bad behavior by rewarding annoying behaviors such as begging, whining, barking and pawing. Writes Brian Kilcommons in Paws to Consider (co-authored by Sarah Wilson), the dog, in essence, is turning you into a slot machine.
- If dog stays quiet throughout the meal, reward him with a food treat coupled with praise as soon as you finish eating. (Behaviorists recommend that humans eat first since they should assume the role of leader of the pack.)
- You might need to ignore the dog for several meals until he figures out that begging won't work anymore.
- Establish a regular eating area for the dog. Never feed dogs from the dining table; this practice confuses dogs.
- Teach your dog the place command "Go to Place." This might be a mat in the kitchen or on the other side of the dining room from which he can observe the humans but not interfere with their meal. The dog is to "go to place" in order to earn treats. Treat him when he goes to his place. If he stays in his place during the meal, then give him a treat.
- If he starts to approach the table, command "ah-ah-ah" or "No!" Send him back to his place.
- Give the dog treats, toys and attention on your terms. A good practice is to encourage the dog to "earn" rewards. For example, the dog can be instructed to "sit" or "down" before receiving a treat or bowl of food.
- Don't give in to guilt. If you are consistent with your rules and corrections, your dog will eventually learn that begging is does not work.
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