It all starts with that sad puppy look you can’t resist, so you throw your dog a small piece of meat from your dinner plate. Next comes a pitiful whine and you find yourself giving in again. Before long, what was a cute interaction becomes a full-blown begging battle. If you are tired of the whining, barking and all-around annoyance at mealtime, then it’s time to get serious.
The begging has to stop! But how?
Why Do Dogs Beg?
Let’s get real pet parents – it’s your fault your dog’s begging is out of control. Begging is not a natural behavior; it’s a learned one. Allow it once and it is going to become a habit unbecoming to an emotional support animal that is difficult to break.
Dogs don’t start out begging. As puppies, they may grab a whiff of something tasty and head toward it. Like a child, they do what works to get in on the action. This usually begins with those sad eyes. Rover looks cute so you reward him with a bite of what grabbed his attention in the first place. Big mistake! You haven’t just given in; you’ve told your dog that’s how to get what he wants.
Maybe the next time he tries this trick you don’t fall for it. That’s when he lets out a little whine. Oh well, you think. What’s the harm? Well, you have now reinforced behavior that is only going to get worse. Remember, that puppy is just a child learning new ways of getting what he wants, and so far his antics have worked every time. It won’t take long before those cute looks and whines become more insistent antics, especially when they fail to work. Before long you may be dealing with a barking dog at the table – or worse yet a food snatcher.
That Begging Has to Stop!
No matter how cute that puppy was the first time he begged for a treat, his behavior is going to get annoying very quickly. Before you even realize there is a problem, you have helped instill a set habit in your dog. Depending on his age and personality, this habit may be hard to break. So where do you start? Here are a few tips:
Set some ground rules (with the entire family). The only way to break the begging habit is to set some ground rules for humans and pets alike. This is especially important for the emotional support dog who must be able to interact in all sorts of situations. Food is to be served in the dog’s dish only. This can be especially hard for kids since they like to “share” what they have with their beloved playmate. But remember, every time someone gives in to those eyes or that whine, the process of retraining your dog must start anew.
Refuse to allow any begging. Any time your dog begins begging for food or attention, say no firmly and remove them from the situation. This may mean putting Fido in another room during meals or even sending them to their crate for a brief “time out.”
Never reward begging. Pets don’t only beg for food; some also beg for attention. If this is the case, be sure to spend quality time with your pet playing, walking and just hanging out together, but resist the urge to give in to his insistence that you pay attention to him on his terms. This is your pet’s way of inserting control in the family. Instead, set a play schedule for you to spend time together, and be sure to hold firm when your dog becomes insistent that you pay attention to him at other times.
Bring in an expert. If you have not formally trained your dog (especially regarding mealtime protocol), then it may be time to bring in a professional dog trainer. Not just meant for your pet, trainers also help owners learn how to relate to their pets without giving the dog the upper hand with its begging.
A begging dog isn’t just an annoying pet; it can also become dangerous. A dog that is always rewarded by its begging antics will become more and more aggressive when those efforts do not give him the results he expects. In time those whines and barks may become jumps, snarls and even bites! Don’t let your cute playmate become a terror no one can control – nip the begging in the bud right now.
If you don’t already have your pet certified and suffer from a mental or emotional disability, American Service Pets can help you obtain an ESA Letter and get the relief you need. Learn more at AmericanServicePets.com or take the free test to see if you qualify for the benefits of having an Emotional Support Animal.