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Don’t Let Dog Begging Ruin Thanksgiving

Don’t Let Dog Begging Ruin Thanksgiving

By Hilarie Erb, American Kennel Club

With its fantastic food and mouthwatering aromas, Thanksgiving is one of the most delicious days of the year. As football plays on TV and family members gather around, most of us look forward to Thanksgiving dinner as the highlight of the day. But will your begging dog detract from the occasion?

Begging is a full-time job for many dogs, and while owners complain about it, most don’t realize that they have trained their dogs to do it. Since the first day the adorable puppy came home, the owner has probably succumbed to the pup’s pleading expression during a meal at least once — and so it begins. But don’t worry — whether you have a new puppy or an old dog who has been begging for years, we have some simple steps you can take to stop begging before the holidays.

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How to Stop Begging Before it Begins

If your dog is a new addition to the family and has not had time to become an expert moocher, the easiest way to eliminate begging is to make sure it never starts.

  • No one in the family should feed the dog one single morsel from the table, ever.
  • Do not put your plates down on the floor for your pup to lick after you are finished eating.
  • Any attention at the table will give your dog a reason to keep trying.
  • Teach your dog “go to your place” so your dog finds their bed or crate and stays there during mealtime.
  • Right before you sit down to eat, feed your dog, preferably in a separate room from where you dine.

Before the holidays is an excellent time to teach your dog commands like “go to your place.” This command is especially great for when you are cooking, opening the door for guests, and yes, enjoying a peaceful meal.

How to Stop Habitual Begging

Is your dog a seasoned pro at getting what he wants from your table during meals? It will take repeated training to instill better table manners.

  • During smaller meals like breakfast and lunch, practice ignoring your dog.
  • Do not acknowledge your dog at the table in any way, positively or negatively.
  • Reward positive behavior after mealtime.
  • Teach your dog basic obedience such as “sit,” “stay,” and “leave it.”
  • Keep your dog occupied — give your pup an acceptable alternative to begging like an interactive toy or a bully stick.
  • Your dog’s behavior may get worse before it gets better. When a ploy works for dogs and suddenly stops, they actually try harder before they eventually give up. But if you persevere, your dog will learn. Until his manners have reliably improved, put your dog in his crate with a treat or chew toy before you even sit down to dinner. It is also a good idea for feast day because guests will be prime targets for begging. Some guests may even give into your dog’s begging without you knowing.
  • Don’t forget about the plates of cookies, nuts, and snacks that are out for guests, either. While you are busy preparing food and talking to guests, your pup may take advantage of your distraction and help herself. This is another good reason to let your dog hang out safely in her crate with a dog-safe treat while lots of guests are over. 

Can Dogs Have Any Leftovers?

  • It is OK to give your pup a special piece of leftover meat or other dog-safe foods, but only when dinner is over. Take the treat away from the table and put it in her dog dish.
  • Many people believe that getting a taste of human food in any setting will cause a dog to start begging, but it’s the “when,” not the “what.” Giving your dog a few bits of leftover turkey or carrots on top of his dog food is not the same as handing him food from your plate during your dinner. Be sure that he only gets foods that are healthy for him, nothing with lots of fat, onions, or spices. There are also dog-safe pumpkin recipes made specifically for canines.
  • If you are not sure about a particular food, don’t give it to your dog. With that said, have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving and don’t forget to take your dog on a nice long walk after the big meal. It will be good for both of you.

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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