Woof Woof, Can I Please Have Some More?

Woof Talk by Belinda Sinclair

Looking for a snackWe have all seen them. You know, the dogs that lie under the table wait­ing for any morsel of food to fall, or worse yet to be hand­ed to them. Then there are the dogs that nudge you with their nose repeat­edly as you are sit­ting down in front of the TV to snack. I get the “head press” on my lap by my two pushy bor­der col­lies, Bon­nie and Dun­can, while I am try­ing to eat some­thing if I don’t keep them in check. Beg­ging for food is in a dog’s nature. It is not wrong, it is just rude. Most peo­ple will feed their dog from the table or offer a piece of their snack to their canine “best friend” if the dog wants some, and when has a dog not want­ed some­thing you are eat­ing?

My canine table shark start­ed when my daugh­ters Kaytlin and Nic­hole were still tod­dlers. Clean­ing up behind them at meal times took just as long as mak­ing their food. There always seemed to be more food on the floor than in their mouths. My solu­tion to com­bat this three times a day annoy­ing prob­lem was to allow my dog to “clean up” after the girls. I solved one prob­lem and I made anoth­er one with fur. At meal time I would put our rough col­lie Sheena in a down-stay about six feet away from the table. You could see the inten­sity in her eyes as she knew she had a job to do and she was com­mit­ted to doing it well. Her job was to wait until I removed the girls from the table and then she could go in for the big clean up. It was help­ful at the time but Sheena didn’t always fol­low the rules. Dogs are oppor­tunists and Sheena was no excep­tion!

Many dog own­ers have indulged in giv­ing their dogs peo­ple food. I have worked with many own­ers who cook entire meals for their dogs. Any­thing from roast­ed free-range chick­ens with cloves of gar­lic mixed with steamed brown rice, to com­plete pot roast din­ners slow cooked in the crock pot. By the way, none of this food was first eat­en by the own­ers and then giv­en to the dog; it was cooked sole­ly for the dog! I am not say­ing that this is bad, but are you will­ing to live with it for the rest of your dog’s life?

If you have cre­ated a dog that could make the art­ful dodger from Oliv­er Twist seem slow and clum­sy, then read on. As own­ers we cre­ated this prob­lem, so now we must take own­er­ship of it and change our habits so that we can change our dog’s behav­ior.

  1. There are two schools of thought about where your dog should be while you are eat­ing. Most peo­ple want their dogs as far away from the din­ner table as pos­si­ble while eat­ing. If your dog is obe­di­ence trained, then put your dog in a down-stay some­where near by. If your dog breaks the com­mand, go and replace your dog back in the down-stay until you can get through an entire meal with­out hav­ing to ask more then once. Be patient with your dog, as this could take weeks to months to per­fect. The oth­er idea is sim­i­lar, except that you have the dog close to the table in the down stay. If you would like to eat at a café with out­door seat­ing and want to bring your dog along, this is train­ing your dog for that kind of Euro­pean lifestyle.
  2. Get the whole fam­ily to com­mit to not feed­ing your dog peo­ple food. If some­one is hold­ing out and still feed­ing the dog peo­ple food, you have a long road ahead of you. This also includes left­overs from your plate scraped into the dog’s bowl. It doesn’t take long for the dog to fol­low it back to where it came from and start beg­ging for it before it gets to his bowl. After all, in your dog’s mind it is his any­way. Trans­fer­ring to his bowl doesn’t make it any less of a prob­lem.
  3. Keep your dog on a reg­u­lar feed­ing sched­ule and make sure that you are feed­ing your dog an ade­quate diet. Not all dog foods are cre­ated equal. Dog foods vary wide­ly on what is in them. I pre­fer to feed my dogs a “corn, wheat and soy free diet” and now you can find many dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies out there pro­duc­ing these top qual­ity dog foods. It may cost a lit­tle more but dogs on a pre­mium dog food will have few­er vet vis­its from things like yeast infec­tions to a wide host of skin con­di­tions.
  4. Change where you feed your dog. If you eat in the kitchen, then move your dog’s food to a dif­fer­ent room. If you eat in the din­ing room then make that room off lim­its to your dog 100% of the time.

If all else fails, remem­ber that you cre­ated this lit­tle beg­ging mon­ster, so you have to live with it. Sheena is no longer with us, but she was a great dog who helped me raise my chil­dren. Bon­nie and Dun­can are pleas­ant dogs when we are eat­ing meals. We eat din­ner togeth­er every night as a fam­ily and it wouldn’t be a fam­ily din­ner with­out the entire fam­ily present and that includes out four legged fam­ily mem­bers!

Belin­da Sin­clair is the own­er and train­er of Woof Woof Dog­gie Day­care & Train­ing Cen­ter based in Wind­ham, NH. Belin­da and her two Bor­der Col­lies, Bon­nie and Dun­can, have tak­en their sheep herd­ing skills and used them to remove unwant­ed geese from local prop­er­ties. Their pack goes by the name of Woof Woof Geese Chasers. Have a ques­tion you want answered about dogs? E-mail us or call at 603–890‑6239.