Does your puppy or dog Beg, Borrow or Steal from your dinner table? Turn the tables on him! You can turn begging, “borrowing" or stealing from the dinner table into an asset by following this simple plan.
So many times we see behavior we don't like and think “how can I stop that?" We do ourselves a great disservice because then our focus is on ‘stopping’ the behavior we don't want rather than training the behavior we DO want.
Why do dogs beg or steal from the dinner table? Quite simply, they want food.
Some dogs are particularly brazen (and agile) and will attempt to steal food directly from the table. This is usually met with some sort of reprimand, but if your dog has ever been successful in his raid then the pattern is set. If you leave your plate unattended (except by your vigilant dog), then don't be too surprised to find half your dinner missing when you return.
It has nothing to do with dominance. It has just become reinforced behavior.
Other dogs aren't quite so brazen, or would have physical difficulty in stealing directly from the table. These dogs tend to ‘beg', by staring, drooling, pawing or whatever works to get them a little of the delicious meal you have prepared. Their behavior only needs to be reinforced once and it will take a very long time to go away without any further reinforcement (and that means from anyone, even by accident).
However, we can turn this begging or stealing into an asset by ‘turning the tables’ (so to speak) on our pet!
First up, we need to decide what we would prefer our dog to do instead of begging or stealing. I would almost always prefer a ‘down’ - as in ‘lying down quietly’. My dogs are big, and when they sit, long shoelaces of drool dangle disgustingly from their mouths. Laying down just looks better to me.
To begin with, during actual meals we will lock our dogs out of the room or put them in their crates. This is so we can enjoy a meal without having to train. In the early stages we need to concentrate during training.
If you have more than one dog, just work with one at a time at first. Lock the other dog/s out of the room.
Have your dog's normal meal in a bowl on the dinner table. Obviously, a clean bowl is preferred for reasons of hygiene.
If your dog doesn't already know how to lay down on command, then take a small piece of food and lure him into position. If you don't know how to do this, find out. (You may need to cut some types of food into tiny pieces before you begin).
Silently, count to 1 in your head and give him some food if he is still laying down.
Now immediately count to 2 in your head, and give him some food if he is still laying down.
Now count to 3 in your head, and give him some food is he is still laying down.
If at any point your dog gets up, then ask him to lay down again and re-start your count at 1. If you get all the way to 10 and he gets up, ask him to lay down again and re-start the count at 1, feed, 2, feed etc
Keep your sessions short, 5 minutes at the most to begin with. You can do this 2 or 3 times each day if you have the time, but keep each session short.
When your dog can stay laying down for a count of 30, you can start using this exercise during normal meals unless you have another dog. If you have two or more dogs, start working with both of them when they can both stay down for a count of 30 individually. When they can both stay down for a count of 30 together, then you can start using this exercise during normal meal times.
By all means, if you want to feed them healthy tid-bits from your plate, then do so. I now only use food off my plate, and my dogs will stay in position for nearly a whole meal. I give only two or three tid-bits during a meal.
This exercise will teach your dogs some self-control, manners and over time, how to work for a long duration.
Aidan Bindoff is Editor of Positive Petzine , a free resource for people training their own dog.
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