Ask the Trainer: How to Stop Your Dog From Begging for Food

&Quot;Are You Gonna Eat All That?&Quot;
“Are you gonna eat all that?”

Begging for food is a common struggle for many dog owners. Families typically just tolerate it on a daily basis, but then get up in arms and embarrassed when their dog begs on holidays when company is visiting. If this sounds like you, start training your dog now. That way when Thanksgiving and the holiday season arrives, you have properly trained your dog.

Begging for food is a habit YOU created and your dog is responding to. At some point (probably more frequently then you want to admit), you gave your dog table scraps when eating.  There are two ways you can solve this:

  1. Eliminate All Reinforcement – From this point forward, if your dog begs for food, do not give them any. Completely cut your dog off from all “snacks” and they will quickly learn that begging no longer works.  

Don’t be guilty of saying, “I will only give a snack this one time”. In order for an unwanted behavior to go extinct, you need to eliminate all reinforcement. You cannot periodically reward and expect your dog to understand – mixed signals are unfair.  

Now we need to eliminate all unintentional reinforcement (UR). UR can come in the form of: talking to your dog, petting, or even direct eye contact.  So if your dog begs, avoid all UR, as those actions can be enough to keep this habit going.  

Keep in mind, when it comes to making a behavior go extinct, your dog may “up the ante” in order to get what they want. If they normally beg by just sitting and waiting, they may now start barking, pawing, or exhibiting other behaviors in order to get your attention/food.  Just keep this in mind and continue to ignore.  

  1. Send Your Dog to “Place” – Teaching your dog a reliable “Place” command is the next option. Like any obedience command, it takes time and a strategic increases in difficulty to develop reliability. Start practicing now, so you and your dog will be ready for the holidays.  
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A brief overview on “How to Teach Place”:

  1. Provide a comfortable target for your dog to lay on (ex. dog bed or mat).
  2. Tell your dog “Place” and use a treat and/or leash to guide your dog to the target.
  3. Once on the intended location, have them “Down”.
  4. When your dog prematurely breaks command, tell them “No” and repeat steps 2 & 3.
  5. When ready, release your dog from command by saying “Free”.

“Place” is a terrific way for your dog to be present, yet not disruptive while you are enjoying the holiday with your family. As I said earlier, proper training takes time. Start training your dog now, so both of you can fully enjoy the holidays.

Steve Reid is a certified professional dog trainer and owner of S.R. Dog Training in Westchester NY.  To learn more about S.R. Dog Training, visit Also become a fan of Steve on Facebook at:

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