Dog Articles - Dinnertime Manners

Dinnertime Manners


Are you sick of your dog begging by the dinner table every night? Does your dog steal food, whimper when you refuse to share, or try to put his nose or paws on the table? He needs to learn some self control! In order to do this, your dog must first have a complete understanding of, and respond without hesitation to sit, down, and stay; so take care of that first.

Once your dog has those three basic training commands down, all you need are some soft, easy-to-eat treats, and a rock-solid anti-begging resolve. If you want to teach your dog not to beg during dinner, you absolutely cannot EVER cave and give him snacks when he begs. Those big brown eyes might be just about irresistible, but you just have to keep in mind how pleasant it will be to eat dinner with your family without a slobbery dog face in your lap, and you can be strong. Make this very clear to the rest of your family as well. No matter how well you train, if your kids are still slipping their vegetables to Fido, your hard work will get you nowhere.

Your dog needs to understand that you control of when he eats, and he has no say. The concept is, self control equals tasty treats. An easy way to teach your dog this principle is to sit down with him and some small, soft treats. Let your dog watch you place a treat in one hand and close your fist around it. He will probably sniff and lick your hand, desperate for a treat. Eventually, though, he will give up, assuming he’s not going to get the treat. As soon as he backs off or looks away, drop the treat. This will teach your dog that he only gets yummy snacks when he is relaxed and not demanding.

In the wild, dogs have to wait for the pack leader to eat his fill and allow them near the food before they get to eat; use this mentality to your advantage and assume the leadership role. Before you put his food bowl down at dinner time, ask him to sit and stay. Then put down the bowl, wait a beat, and say “ok.” If he lunges for the food before you give him a release command, pick the bowl up and try again. A hungry dog will work hard to figure out what he needs to do to get you to leave the bowl on the ground, so it should only take a few tries to get him to wait for your command.  

The next exercise is centered on how your dog should behave when you are sitting down to dinner. For the time being, until your dog gets the concept, you can crate him or put him in another room while you eat so you can still enjoy your dinner time. Create a mock dinner time by sitting at the table with a bowl of your dog’s favorite goodies. When you walk over to the table to sit down, your dog will no doubt be at your heels, begging for some of that delicious food. Sit down and ask him to sit, down, and stay. Once he’s lying down, count one second in your head and give him a treat. If he tries to get up, make him lay back down and count again, then give him a treat. Ask him to sit, down, and stay again, but this time count to two before you give him his treat. If he can’t be still for two seconds, go back to one second and do it a few more times. After he’ll stay down for two seconds, count to three. If he gets up before you make it to three, start back at one. Continue this process until he can stay in the down position for a 30 count.

As long as nobody cheats and rewards your dog for inappropriate behavior, you’ll have a dog with beautiful dinnertime self control before you know it. Just remember to be patient and consistent.

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