The problem of dogs stealing food sometimes doesn’t even seem like a problem at first, with those adorable big eyes looking up over the edge of the table as the wet nose sniffs at the edge of your generous plate of spaghetti and meatballs.
We’ve all seen dogs turn on the charm to get food from the table and we’ve all nearly melted at the sight, but there are reasons to discourage your dog from stealing food from the table,
Before I go any further, I want to ensure you that I don’t discourage table scraps in general. As you can see from this article, there are instances where table scraps are not only just fine but ideal.
But the issue here is to avoid your dog from stealing from the table and sitting nearby with that lovable but somewhat problematic begging look in his or her eyes.
Remember that dogs do have a strong food drive and are therefore quite motivated when it comes to tracking down additional food sources. Even if you’ve just fed them a hearty and healthy meal, they still can saddle up to your dinner table – even if you’ve got guests you’re trying to impress.
The issue here, then, is to discourage the behavior of stealing food from tables without discouraging the dog’s appetite or punishing the pet.
Location, Location, Location
Now, one of the most elementary ways to proceed here is to simply not have the dog around when you’re having dinner. Avoid keeping him or her in the dining room when you’re at the table and try keeping him or her out of the kitchen in general. You may need to establish territorial guidelines in this respect so that your dog doesn’t assume that he or she has the run of the place.
Don’t Perpetuate the Behavior
If you’re trying to discourage your dog from stealing from the table, don’t feed your dog from the table. Far too often we validate our dog’s behavior with “just this once” thinking and then scold the poor thing when he or she does return to beg for food when we’ve got company. That’s not a very nice way to treat our friend, is it?
Instead, be firm. Keep things to a schedule and avoid feeding your dog in unorthodox fashion. The trick is to establish a routine: use the same bowl at the same time and make sure that everyone in the household is on board. If Little Jimmy is sneaking your dog hot dogs in the afternoon, it’s not likely that your four-legged friend will get the message when you scold him or her for the same behavior later on in the day.
Be the Leader
Remember that dogs steal food from the table because they can. If you lack basic leadership skills and discipline, you won’t be able to encourage the sort of behavior that stops stealing food and respects boundaries. You are not trying to dominate your dog, but you do need to ensure that you have its time, space and food needs carved out into your daily lifestyle.
If you are feeding your dog table scraps, make sure that you follow a routine and feed him or her in his or her own bowl at the right time. Don’t simply hand down food at random intervals.
Here’s what I do. Everyday after my dogs eat their main dinner and we eat our dinner, I give them a little people food of their own such as a little grilled chicken and rice, etc. I make a little for a couple of days and warm a little up for them after their main course. They love this!
There are reasons to discourage stealing food from the table beyond the social aspects, of course. Often the table includes hot beverages, soups and other items that can splash or otherwise spill on the dog if he or she is gnawing at something on the side of a plate. Cutlery, like knives and forks, can also cause injury if your dog somehow manages to get his or her mouth in the wrong place.
Remember, this is all about gently encouraging boundaries and gently discouraging this behavior. There are many nutritional advantages to some forms of table scraps and dogs are notoriously social animals, but there are also some problems with feeding from the table that should be avoided.