Dogs are very smart creatures. All it takes is one table scrap dropped to a dog watching you eat with pitiful eyes, for a new habit to begin. The behavior (looking at you, touching you, whining) has been reinforced and approved by you, by dropping a tasty bit of meal.
Now, that the dog has learned what begging for food does, a vicious cycle will take place, and you will literally have to deal with a loyal meal time companion stuck to your side during your lunches and dinners.
However, since you are reading this article I am assuming that you have already begun giving table scraps, so you are probably looking for a solution on how to stop this annoying behavior.
There are a few tips that should allow you to take control of your meal time once again:
Stop giving table scraps
As obvious as this solution is, many owners have trouble being consistent. They may think “OK, I will give you this tiny bit for the last time” and then they find themselves giving them more often than they wished. It is a true fact that dogs seem to know our weaknesses, they know that if they sit nicely and make those pleading eyes very likely their owner will feel guilty for not being able to surrender a little bit of food. So as an owner you must be very firm on refraining from giving in.
Be a leader
Send him away
As hard as it is, try to anticipate your dog’s actions. You sit down and Rover is coming near you drooling in anticipation of a nice piece of steak. Tell him”off”or clap your hands or shake a can with coins in it. Anything to make him understand you are no longer willing to have him near you as you eat. In nature, should something similar happen the alpha leader will very likely growl and even snap to send the dog away.
Keep him distant
Sending him away means keeping him at bay at a distance comfortable to you. Some dogs will challenge you, they will move a step or two away and then stare at you or slowly get closer and closer. Be consistent, make sure he understands that you do not want him anywhere near you. Ideally, he should be a few feet away laying down and ignoring you. This may take time, but at the end your dog will understand.
Feed him after
If your dog is staying away and behaving nicely then you may feed your dog AFTER you are done. In nature, alpha leaders eat FIRST and the subordinates eat after. Your dog will learn to respect you as a leader and will also learn that if he waits quietly from a distance, he gets to eat too once you are done.
Begging should therefore not be tolerated. After all, table scraps are not even good for your dog, so by refraining from dropping pieces of your last fried chicken meal or teriyaki sauce will lead to a healthier and much more obedient dog.