The Star-Herald

End dinnertime begging

Our biggest event of the year is days away. On Saturday, Oct. 27, the doors will open at 6 p.m. for a special evening that will benefit the animals at the Central Aroostook Humane Society: our 9th annual Toast to the Animals.

We have a variety of over 100 items that have been generously donated. There are certificates to local restaurants, hotels, pet boarding, fuel, floral shop, veterinarian, tax services, fireworks, golfing, garden centers and massage.  We have beautiful jewelry, quilts, artwork, gift bags, tools and so much more. We look forward to having you join us to support all our furry friends at the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

Beggars Can Be Choosers:  If you’ve been eating dinner with hot breath and little paws on your lap every day, it is time to end the hungry pleading. A dog begging for food may be common, but it’s neither cute nor healthy for him. Luckily, stopping your dog from begging at the table is a fairly simple task when all members of the family follow through.

A dog who begs for food may just seem interested in imitating his human family, but this behavior communicates more than just hunger. Dogs who beg for food are either not getting the nutrition they need from their own food, according to PetMD, or they’re starved for something else: attention.

How do you know which it is? Start with the food you are feeding your dog. Is it filled with quality ingredients or mostly byproducts? Make sure he’s getting pet food that meets his nutritional needs, and spread out the feeding times to create two to three smaller meals per day. This simple change could stop the begging almost immediately.

Sleep It Off:  If your dog continues to beg after his nutritional needs have been met, the next thing to do is to evaluate the amount of attention he is getting. If possible, consider having play time before your own meal times. This will allow you to burn a few extra calories before you dine, and possibly encourage your pooch to take a little nap while you eat. However, some dogs will try to beg and be at your side all day despite satisfaction otherwise. For those guys, you’ll need to use some deeper training techniques.

Time and Consistency:  Ignoring your dog’s persistent effort to sneak food from your plate will not solve the problem. And although it is important to tell him “no” to instill good habits, you should accompany it with a command you want him to replace the begging with. After saying “no,” for example, you might then say “bed” or “lay down.” Both commands will direct your dog to leave the area. Now the tricky part of this training is to not reward him for obeying the command itself. If you do, you’ll have taught your dog to beg and then lie down for food. Instead, work on these two alternate commands at other times of the day and reinforce that good behavior.

Positive Reinforcement:  When initially teaching these good habits, you should say “good dog,” pet your dog, then offer a training treat. As he progresses, remove the treat and then just reinforce with verbal commands. Once your dog has mastered laying down somewhere specific, you can use that command against dog begging at meal time. If after a few weeks you aren’t seeing any progress, you may need to use a gate to nudge him in the right direction while you’re eating. Keep in mind this should be your last resort; you should still continue to wean him off begging when food is on the table.

Be Consistent: Training is only effective if you are consistent. If you don’t want your dog to beg for human food, avoid giving him any, not just occasionally. All members of the family should subscribe to this behavior. This can be difficult with small children, as they themselves, are learning good behaviors too. It can be as important to teach your children not to feed the dog human food as it is to train your dog to not beg for it. Finally, if you let your dog around company, make sure they understand not to feed the dog too.  

Be sure to reinforce all good behaviors with treats, attention, words, and happy expressions. Your four-legged companion truly wants to please you, and when you reciprocate the right way, the unfavorable behaviors like begging at the dinner table do go away. Check out for more information.

Stop by the Central Aroostook Humane Society at 24 Cross Street, Presque Isle, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closing for lunch 12- 12:30.   

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