Sunday afternoon and your new wife's parents are coming to dinner. You have
noticed a bit of resentment from her side of the family but this dinner is going
to show them that you are indeed capable of controlling your own household. The
house is perfect, the table is beautiful and the food smells and looks
delicious. Unfortunately, your Cocker Spaniel thinks so too and is sitting up
and begging for morsels off everyone's plate and, if not rewarded, attempting to
take the food on his own. You may be king of your castle but this dog's behavior
is making you look like the court jester. How could this have been avoided?
Sadly, this is not all the dogs fault and it started a very long time ago. Some horribly misguided individual who was trying to be a good pet owner did this while the pup was still very young and trained the dog for this very behavior. Want to know who taught your dog this trick? It's a secret so listen carefully; It was YOU.
Now before you get upset and quit reading, take a moment to realize that you weren't consciously training your pet for this unwanted behavior and you did it with the best of intentions. No one is blaming you but the behavior is here now and must be dealt with. Knowing how to fix the problem is easiest when knowing from whence it came and by now I am sure you are starting to figure that out.
Your dog learned this trick from all those times when, however well meaning
you were, the little scraps of food were tossed down to a cute little pup who
stared up with sad brown eyes and left you overpowered with guilt as you looked
at his dish of dog kibble and your plate with steak and potatoes. Those moments
when your kind-hearted generosity over stepped its boundaries and created the
begging monster that we find flipping your mother in laws chair over today for a
bite of beef tip. All of this could have been prevented by a simple act of will
power then but now you have a problem to deal with.
So how do we stop this begging fiend? The first step is doing what you should have done when Fido was still a pup and quit rewarding the behavior both by not giving in and not paying attention to it, perhaps even confining the animal to its kennel or a separate room during meal or snack times if this is difficult. This suggestion is especially useful if you have young children in the household who tend to reward the animal with the foods that they do not favor. Make sure everyone in the household knows not to share their meals with the dog and follows this rule no matter what the circumstance.
When the dog isn't rewarded in the manner he is accustomed to, the real battle will begin. He will decide that he isn't receiving enough attention and begin to whine and howl loudly in complaint of the treatment. Do not give in or the battle is lost and will be harder in the next round. The process will take consistent work for several weeks and one weak moment of slipping the dog a treat just to be nice can ruin all the prior training so standing your ground and enforcing the rule of not giving meal time treats to the dog is a must.
Some useful ideas for stopping the begging are appropriate to mention here. One great one is to feed the dog at the same time the rest of the family eats, preferably in a separate room. This way the dog has its own meal and will not feel the need to take food from others in the household. If this is not an option, perhaps give your pet a toy to play with, thus keeping them occupied throughout mealtime.
No matter how you choose to handle the situation, Consistent and rigid training is the only effective way to correct it. Every member and guest of your household must enforce the rules or all your work will be of no avail. However, if you follow these rules, you will be blessed with a healthier pet, a happier household and pride in your well-mannered canine friend.