One of the topic requests I got recently was about dogs begging for food at the table. This has been a contentious issue in my household between my husband and I for a long time!

Begging is a learned behavior. Dogs beg only because we have shown them that it works. They look cute and linger about the table, and we feed them scraps. Funny to think how that is a major factor that played into dog domestication. Dogs lingered at the edges of villages/camps and scavenged for the leftovers. Humans learned that the dogs didn't pose much of a threat and actually offered protection and soon the dogs got more brave and came closer and closer to the humans and eventually became domesticated animals (in a nutshell).

I don't mind begging. Honestly, I think it is cute. My husband doesn't think it is so cute. I love it when Lucy puts her head on my lap and gazes up at me for a tidbit of my dinner and he doesn't even want a dog to look in his direction from across the room when he is eating!

Beggars can be reformed. There are a ton of options. First you can use the extinction method. Basically ignore your dog and don't give them anymore scraps. She will try harder at first (extinction burst), and then the behavior will slowly disappear. This method doesn't work for me. I may be able to resist feeding them when my husband is home, but I don't when he is not around and by intermittently rewarding, I made the begging behavior stronger!

The next method is you can teach the dog to do a behavior incompatible with begging (this is what we do). Teach your dog that he should be on his dog bed when you eat or laying down in another room. This method takes time because it is actually a duration stay with a food distraction.

You can also use simple management and crate your dog or relocate your dog to another room when food is being served to avoid begging. If we were to have a dinner party someday, I probably would relocate the dogs so I didn't have to wonder if they were holding their down-stay.

The last method is the one I hate the most, and the one my husband prefers to use. He taught the dogs (mainly Lucy) that the word "beggar" and a lifted fork is an aversive. When he says "beggar" in a "you are a naughty dog" tone, she slinks off. Same goes for if he points his fork at her. I personally hate this because I can see that it makes Lucy uncomfortable and it really doesn't work for long. She eventually sneaks back over to try again for a morsel. I suppose I don't have to worry about this anymore since Lucy is at my dad's and thankfully, he uses the down-stay method for Lucy and his dog, Harley. That is, when he cares that they are begging!

Bottom line is that begging is either something that bugs you, or something that doesn't. Unfortunately, if your household is split on this it can be hard on the dog receiving mixed signals. The best thing to do is work on a good down-stay so it can be used when the person who hates begging is around.