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It can be really frustrating when your dog begs or steals human food constantly.
Dogs beg for food because they know it's a way to get what they want. Which makes sense, right? They also counter surf because it's easy. Big puppy dog eyes begging at the dinner table can be cute at first, but once a dog learns begging behavior, it can be difficult to get them to stop. If you have a food-stealing or dog-begging problem, the positive reinforcement dog trainers in Food Manners on Dogly are here to help.
There are 5 guides in Food Manners to help train your dog not to beg or steal food, as well as strategies for preventing these behaviors in the first place. If you're ready to put an end to your dog's begging and food stealing, dive into an overview of each guide below so you can choose which training you want to get started with.
Here's an overview of the 5 training guides for dog owners with a food-stealing or begging dog
#1 Food Manners Guide: Teach your dog to "drop it," even food!
As pet owners, knowing how to teach our dogs to "drop it" is huge. That goes for chew toys, your dog's food bowl, your favorite shoe, or even food your dog shouldn't be eating. If you have a begging dog, you'll want to be especially good at this cue. "Drop it" is an important cue because it can help prevent our dogs from getting into things they're not supposed to and can also help keep them safe (e.g., if they pick up something poisonous).
Here's an overview of the 7 simple steps to teach your dog the "drop it" cue. When you're ready to start training this behavior, go to the full guide here.
- Make the "drop it" cue a game. This will reinforce good behavior by creating positive associations every time you ask your dog to "drop it" rather than a negative association. Never punish or scold your dog. This could drive them to quickly learn to resource guard the special treat or food you're trying to get them to drop.
- Start training with low-value toys and treats. It's extremely helpful if you get to know which toys and treats are super interesting vs not to your dog. Use the not-so-interesting toys and treats as you start this training.
- Reward your dog with a higher value treat than what's being dropped. That makes sense, right? If you're going to drop something, what I'm getting needs to be better than what I'm giving up.
- Replace the food lure with a cue word like "drop." I highly recommend jumping over to the full guide linked above for a better understanding of this and the next few tips.
- Whatever your dog dropped - give it back. Double win for your dog! Not only does your dog get a treat for dropping the item but your dog also gets it back afterward. Hello, positive reinforcement.
- As your dog gets comfortable with training this behavior, upgrade to higher-value items.
- Teach your dog good things happen when you "drop it." Your dog will remember every time he/she dropped it, there was a reward.
This is a fairly simple overview, so to properly train this behavior head over to the full guide in Food Manners.
You'll also see a word of warning on resource guarding in the full guide. If your dog is a resource guarder, get a certified positive reinforcement trainer involved before trying this yourself. We have lots of great trainers in the Advocate Community we would be happy to recommend.
Now that you have a reliable "drop it" cue with your dog, let's move on to food-stealing dogs.
#2 Food Manners Guide: Teach your dog to not steal food with this game
Food is super tempting. For both humans and dogs. If your dog tends to steal food, you're not alone. Dogs stealing food is a very common behavior problem, but it's also a behavior that can be changed with training.
In the full guide linked here, you'll learn 3 steps including 1 game to help your dog stop stealing food. Below is the overview:
- Manage your environment to make it hard for your dog to steal food. In other words, make it easy for your dog to have good behavior by putting food away or using a baby gate to keep dogs in a separate room away from the dinner table.
- Teach your dog this game to make you more interesting than stealing food. The game is called "It's Yer Choice" and it's broken down into 8 steps in the full guide linked above. The point of this game is to get your dog to give you eye contact before attempting to steal food so you give your dog the food as a reward instead of needing to steal it.
- Don't get greedy with your training! Have patience, practice in short training intervals, and remember to reward your dog for the smallest movement in the right non-food-stealing direction.
This game can be a bit confusing so head over to the full guide for a video Dogly Training Advocate Tressa Fessenden-McKenzie has shared to show you how to do it. When you're ready, let's move on to the next guide in the Food Manners Channel to take the game you just learned and start generalizing it to real-life situations.
#3 Food Manners Guide: Teach your food-begging dog to not steal food in real-life situations
If you haven't taught your dog the game in the previous guide yet, go back and do that now. If you have, and your dog is consistently giving you eye contact when shown a handful of dog food, you're ready to start generalizing this behavior to new situations and environments. Woohoo!
Here's an overview of the 3 steps to teach your dog how to generalize this behavior and stop begging or stealing food in different environments. Click here to jump to the full guide.
- Change the dog food item you're presenting your dog. We don't want your dog to get in the habit of just giving you eye contact when your dog sees a handful of dog food! Practice the game again but this time with a higher value treat.
- Change how the treat is presented. Not stealing or begging for food from your hand is great but does the same apply to food on the dinner table? Go to the full guide here to learn how to transition from food in your hand to food on the kitchen counter or dinner table.
- Put all of the pieces together. Step 1 and 2 initially should be practiced separately. Now try them together.
There you have it! You've built the foundation to stop your dog's begging and/or food stealing, transitioned it to real life situations, and are well on your way to having a dog you don't have to constantly worry about eating your next meal!
The almost-final piece to teaching your dog to stop begging is something called "stationing." If you don't know what that is, continue on to the overview of the next guide below. This is a game changer to help you stay strong against those puppy eyes and stop your dog from begging for food.
#4 Food Manners Guide: Teach your dog "stationing" to stop your dog from begging for food
Dogs beg. It's a fact of life and not something you should ever feel guilty about or punish your dog for doing. You can, though, teach your dog begging for food doesn't give the reward they were hoping for but learning a behavior called "stationing" does.
Here's an overview of the 4 tips to teach your dog "stationing." To get started teaching this behavior and stop your dog from begging, go to the full guide linked here.
- What even is "stationing?" Stationing is teaching your dog or puppy to go to a designated spot on cue. This is very similar to the "go to bed/mat" training in Basic Manners linked here. Check it out if your pup doesn't have a "go to bed/mat" cue yet.
- Learn how to teach your dog or puppy "stationing" instead of letting them beg for food. There are 10 steps to teach your pet this behavior in the full guide linked above.
- Know when to use "stationing." The best time to get your dog in a "station" is when you're eating a meal but before your dog begs. Completely ignore your dog as best as possible and reward for not begging. Your pup may only last a few minutes and that's ok! Have patience and keep practicing.
- Practice "stationing" in real life. Jump to the full guide watch "stationing" in action. Invite people over. Send your dogs to their "station" and ignore those sad eyes while you reward your dog for letting you eat in peace!
You now know how to station your dog or puppy and stop the food begging for good. Once your pup knows begging doesn't work anymore but going to their "station" does, they will start racing to their "station" to be rewarded. Okay, racing may be an overstatement but at least you won't have eyes watching you from under the table anymore.
The last Food Manners guide is slightly specific to the holidays but really applies to any time guests, food, and your dog are involved. Check out the overview below.
#5 Food Manners Guide: Know these 7 tips for a safe holiday season with your pets and food
The holidays are a hectic time of year. Friends, family, food, and pups are always an interesting mix. We get busy, we get stressed, and the next thing we know the turkey is on the dog's head. Hopefully not really.
Whether you're getting ready to host Thanksgiving or just having friends over for a dinner party to introduce them to your new puppy, here's an overview of 7 tips you should know to keep your pets safe:
- Have a plan where your puppy or dog will be before/during/after you eat.
- Prepare enrichment toys before your friends or family arrive.
- Take your pup to burn off steam so he/she is well exercised mentally and physically.
- Set up your pet and guests for safe arrivals. Pro tip: get a baby gate!
- Make sure someone is in charge of the pets during the meal. Perfect time to bring out your "stationing" training!
- Guide interactions when your dog is meeting new people - especially kids. Is there anything the humans should know about the best way to meet your pet?
- Reward your dog. A lot. Give rewards for not begging, not barking, not jumping. Have it rain treats for being the best pup.
That was a very quick run through but to see the full guide on how to have the most successful dinner party when food, family, and pets are involved, click here.
And that's it! If you've gone through all of the guides in Food Manners here on Dogly you now have a dog who doesn't beg or steal food and would rather be rewarded for going to his/her "station." Congrats! Enjoy your dinner time in peace without a dog begging at your feet.
Continue your training in the Manners Channel here on Dogly
Now that you've gotten through all of the Food Manners training guides, continue your training in the Manners Channel here on Dogly. The Dogly Training Advocates have created guides for you on Basic Manners, Leash Manners, or even Travel Manners. If you're looking for more tips to stop your dog from pulling on leash, learning to stay, or not jumping on people as they come in your home, check out the Manners Channel here.
And if you have any questions, the Advocates are always happy to help. Ask them anything in the Community discussion or if you'd like more personalized help, you can choose who you'd like to work with you one-on-one. You shouldn't go through stuff alone with your dog, so please reach out and we will try our best to help!