If you own a dog, you’re probably used to begging—a lot of it. It is common for dogs to beg for food, even when they’re not even hungry.
Why do they do it? The high-pitched whine is a form of attention-seeking. Dogs crave attention and affection, and begging is an effective way for them to receive both. This is especially true because dog owners tend to cave easily. Over half of dog owners “often” or “always” give their pets food if they beg for it, with many overfeeding their pets to keep them happy.
This is wrong. Overfeeding a pet can lead to rapid weight gain, which is associated with a wide range of negative health outcomes.
Here’s how you actually deal with dog begging:
- Feed your dog appropriate amounts. Analyze portions and serving sizes to determine the right quantity of food for a given day. Then, spread out the portions over the course of a day, so your dog isn’t eating too much in one sitting at the expense of another. The less hungry your dog is, the less they’ll beg.
- Ignore and redirect. Of course, dogs beg even when they’re not hungry. Don’t give in to the temptation of responding to yours! And don’t give in by giving them food! Ignoring a begging dog will ultimately teach them that begging is not rewarded behavior, providing a strong disincentive. After ignoring them, it’s then time to redirect your dog’s attention to something else, such as a toy or a treat. Distraction is a powerful tool.
- Use obedience cues. Don’t forget words like “sit” or “stay.” Dogs need to learn that their owners’ wishes are commands. Relying on commands that dogs understand can discourage impulse-based behaviors, such as begging. Properly trained dogs will really sit and stay, even if they want to beg deep down.
- Reward the non-begger. This one is important. If your dog eventually learns to stop begging, you should reward them accordingly. It’s not easy for a dog to cut out an impulse, so that discipline needs to be followed up with a toy or a treat. Rewarding good behavior makes it more likely for that behavior to continue, while bad behavior is slowly eradicated.