Managing Your Pet’s Begging Behavior

It’s dinner time with the family and your dog or cat is sitting in their seat at the table as always, or perhaps they are sitting right at your feet. They look at you with those sweet, beautiful eyes in a way that tugs at your heart. You know what they want…just a small piece of your tasty dinner. This begging behavior is a prevalent frustration in most households. It’s cute sometimes but can become quite a nuisance. In this post, we will cover a few ways to manage begging behavior!

  • The key to stopping begging is consistency. If your pet thinks they can get a sneaky treat sometimes, they will always beg. For this reason, setting a strict pattern of when you treat and when you don’t is critical to stop all begging
  • Choose when you will treat. Offering treats when your pet is learning new tricks, before leaving the house, at bedtime, or when you are out playing in the yard encourages positive behaviors and strengthens the human-animal bond. However, we should refrain from offering treats while cooking or eating, as this encourages begging behavior. Once a pet is taught they can expect food in certain situations, you have trained them to seek food at those times.  To stop begging at certain times, we must stop offering food when we don’t want our pet to beg.
  • Tips for distraction. Some pets are so food motivated that whether you offer food or not, they will beg and attempt to convince you that they will starve without that small table scrap! In these cases, it is best to distract.  This can be done by ensuring their mealtime is the same as yours!  Offer your pet their meal in a puzzle toy to distract them with their own food while you enjoy your own family mealtime. (Check out this article on some great food puzzle toys for both cats and dogs!)
  • Separation. The final option when a pet just will not give in is to separate. If you cannot stop your pet from trying to steal food as you cook or share a meal with family, it can sometimes be easiest and safest to keep your pet separate from the kitchen or dining area.  The key to this is to make sure we do not allow this to become a punishment. Make sure you put your pet somewhere with a special treat or toy so they have entertainment while you eat.  And be sure to let them out once you’ve finished and cleaned up.

For more tips on training and managing this behavior, be sure to speak with your veterinarian at your upcoming wellness exam!

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Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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