How to Stop a Dog From Begging For Food

Picture this, you sit down at the dinner table, and what happens? Do you have a furry friend at your feet staring up at you with big, round, puppy-dog eyes? Or worse, they do that puppy whine at intervals? 

Begging for food is a dog’s natural instinct. It’s also learned behavior. If you slip your pooch table scraps at mealtimes, you’re encouraging more begging. Those big soulful eyes will continue to make sad eye contact if you let them. Your pooch will look longingly at your plate and then back to you, hoping for a tasty morsel. They may even scramble to sit as still as possible while their tail sweeps side-to-side. You know the position.

While many dog owners seem content to have their dog begging at the dinner table, you can stop begging behavior. Like any behavior problem, you can train your pup for different dog behavior using positive reinforcement. 

Besides, dog begging at mealtimes can also be dangerous for your pup. There’s a lot of human food that’s poisonous for the pups. You probably know about chocolate and onions, but did you know pistachios can be toxic for dogs? They can. And it doesn’t take many.  My sister almost lost her Maltipoo to a single pistachio! 

Aside from the potential poisons, rewarding your dog with people food contributes to obesity. In the past decade, 56% of dogs have been on the obese side. Too much weight contributes to health problems like arthritis and heart concerns. 

How Do I Get My Dog To Stop Whining and Begging For Food? 

dog and pizza

Like everything with dogs, it’s all about dog training. Dogs are people pleasers, but they’re not mind readers.

If you reward your dog for begging, they’ll think that it’s ok, and you’ll get more of the unwanted behavior. In their minds, they’re not doing anything wrong, they’re only doing what comes naturally, and you’re rewarding them with delicious morsels.

Fortunately, you can also use positive reinforcement to train your dog for good behavior rather than begging at dinner time.

Train your dog basic commands

dog training

“Sit,” “Stay,” “Leave it,” and “Lay down” are useful commands for any dog, but you may not have thought about using them to break the dog begging habit. For example, many dog trainers recommend teaching your dog to go to his crate or bed while you’re at the dinner table. 

Imagine you have a comfortable dog bed in the corner of your living room. It’s within sight of your dining table so you can still keep an eye on your dog. You’ve decided this is the spot where you want your dog to relax while you eat. 

Great! Now, you’ll start by teaching your pup that the bed is a happy spot. You can use treats and the “down” command combined with “stay” to train your pup that their bed is a good spot. Then, you’ll send them to bed when you sit down to eat. Maybe you keep a favorite chew toy on the bed to occupy your pup while you’re eating. 

Of course, dog training requires consistent repetition. 

In many cases, it’ll take 10-15 minutes a day of consistent training for a few days to teach your pup to go to the dog bed when you tell them. 

The most important thing in dog training is consistency. This means everyone in the house needs to participate in the dog training. If you have one person still slipping the dog table scraps, then your training won’t work because someone is encouraging bad behavior.

Put your dog in a separate room

dog in donut bed in living room

A variation on the bed or crate option is to put your pup in another room and close the door. You can train your dog to go to their “room,” and you can close the door when you sit down to eat. Presto! You’re spared the sad-eyed pup stare. If your dog still whines while in the other room, ignore them. Try putting on music for them, maybe doggie TV to redirect their attention.

You can also start feeding your dog in this room before you sit down to eat. Invite your dog into the room, put down their full dog food bowl and step away, closing the door behind you. Then, you can enjoy your meal in peace.

Some people put a baby gate in between their dining room and their dog. That way, you can keep an eye on your pup with a puzzle toy or other treat to keep them occupied while you eat.

Offer a distraction

dog with a chew toy

The delicious smells of human food offer plenty of temptation, so you can’t really blame your dog for wanting to join you in the taste sensations. To distract your pup, you can offer a favorite chew toy or maybe a puzzle toy (with delicious treats hidden inside.) You can gently toss it across the room and encourage your pup to go after it.

You don’t want to feed anything from the dining table, though, because that will teach your dog that good things come from the dinner table. If you want to encourage good behavior in the first place, make sure anything you feed your pooch is away from your dinner table.

Ignore the begging

Dogs do know how to turn those dramatic puppy eyes on you. Honestly, some of them deserve an Oscar for their pitiful expressions. But you’re the human, and you don’t have to give in! It’s tough, but if you don’t look at the sad eyes, it’s easier to ignore.

Now, if they’re whining, that’s more difficult, and you’ll probably benefit from training your dog to be in a separate room when you eat. Leave them with a few dog treats or treat-filled toys to occupy themselves. 

How to stop a dog from begging for food: Feed your dog first

dog eating meal

If your dog eats his own food first, that doesn’t mean he’ll also stop the begging behavior, but at least you’ll know he just ate, so maybe you’ll feel a little less guilty. 

Of course, some dogs are extremely food driven, and it seems that no matter what you do, you can’t break them from the dog begging habit. This is often a psychological need rooted in the past, such as former strays who were scavengers on the streets in their previous life. Such trauma may require more dog training or a dog behavior expert to help you break this habit. 

Happy eating!

what toxins can cause seizures in dogs: caffine

For other dogs, begging for table scraps is just an opportunity to get something tasty. It’s no different than you or I eyeing up the trail mix in the cabinet for a little mid-afternoon snack. You can’t blame your dog for wanting a little nosh too. Or, maybe your dog learned this bad behavior from your other dog, canine companions can teach unwanted behaviors. 

Ultimately, dog behavior problems stem from a lack of training. You can break the dog begging habit with a coordinated effort among everyone in the family. Make a plan, get the household on board, and happy eating without a begging dog!