People often say that they don’t want to use “human food” to train as they don’t want their dogs to learn to beg at the dinner table. In reality, this rationalization is very far from the true reason dogs learn to beg while you eat. In actuality, you can feed your dog kibble from the table and they will learn to beg just as quickly as if they get human scraps.
As a dog owner, burn this phrase into your brain: DOGS DO WHAT’S REINFORCING! If you never learn anything else of importance about how dogs think, learn this!!! Dogs will repeat behaviours that earn them reinforcement. The only tricky part is figuring our what that particular dog finds rewarding. Most dogs love food and often dogs love petting, praise and play. That’s just basic insight into canine nature.
So how does knowing this help us teach our dogs not to be pests at the dinner table? Simple! Decide what you would prefer your dogs do and reward them for that. For example, you might prefer your dogs spend family meals tucked on their bed in the corner. Get ready with your training plan!
1 – Without the distraction of dinner, teach your dog to go to their bed and lie down with some tasty treats as reinforcement.
2 – Use a variable reward schedule to build duration on the bed
3 – Once your dog is reliable without the family dinner going on, add it in. Be prepared to train through if your dog has trouble. Have a leash on to help direct him if he makes mistakes
4 – Increase the duration between your rewards until you are able to reward only at the end of the meal
One final tip is that you should NEVER feed them from the dinner table. This often takes some family training lessons – especially if there are kids in the house who don’t like their vegetables. Follow these steps and soon, your dog will realize it’s far more rewarding for them to lie on their beds than it is to beg from the side of the table.