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How can I stop my dog from begging at the dinner table?

Denise Price advises…

If you’re often met with a soulful pair of eyes looking up at you longingly while you tuck into your Sunday roast, then the chances are, somewhere along the line, your dog has been given a sneaky morsel or two! Dogs are supremely optimistic and it may only take one success for them to keep trying.

The best approach is to train your dog from a puppy. They should never get food from your plate and they should never get food when you are eating at the table. Never!

If the boat has already sailed on that one, then you need to train an alternative behaviour. I would suggest teaching your dog a ‘go to bed’ cue with the ultimate goal being that you can sit down at the dinner table and eat a meal while he settles on his bed. You’ll need to train in small stages at first.

• Toss a treat on to your dog’s bed and as soon as he gets on the bed to get that treat, say, “Good” and then give another treat.

• Repeat several times until your dog starts anticipating that you’re about to toss the treat.

• You can then just point to the bed and when he goes to it, praise and reward.

The next step is to ask your dog for a ‘down’ when he gets to the bed. Ideally, he’ll be in a settled down position, where he’s rolled his hip over. This is much more comfortable for a dog, so he is more likely to stay put and relax.

Once you’ve connected the ‘go to bed’ and ‘settle down’ cues together, you can start adding some distraction. Can your dog stay in his settled down position while you go to the dining table and sit down? Great, return to him and reward. Can he stay in his settled down position while you sit at the dining table and have a quick sip of tea? Lovely job, return to him and reward. How about having a cuppa and a biscuit while he stays on the bed? In this way, over many sessions, you will be able to build up your dog’s ability to settle on his bed while you’re at the table for longer and longer periods.

In the early stages of training this exercise, your dog may find it really hard to change his ways. You could close your dining room door so that he doesn’t have access to the dining table. A lovely option for a reward for going to bed and getting into the settle position is to give him a long-duration edible treat. Pizzle sticks or stuffed Kongs are good choices. That way, he’ll associate his settle time with some lovely licking and chewing, which are naturally relaxing behaviours for dogs.

As with all training, plenty of practice and some great rewards will teach your dog what he’s expected to do. Just don’t give in to those puppy dog eyes!

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