When your small puppy starts to beg for a treat, it’s very cute to see. However, when your large dog is begging at every meal all the way through, it can be frustrating and draining. Therefore, if you find your dog begging for food, how do you stop it? Ensuring you put in the work when they are young can save you many problems when they get older.
In this article, we will be going through the cause of begging when it could be a health or hunger concern, and the training required to stop it. So you can fairly assess your dog and aid them on the journey to become better around mealtimes. We will also include a handy FAQ for any further questions about the topic that do not form their own sub-category. So without further ado, let’s look into dog food begging a little more.
Why Do Dogs Beg for Food?
There are two main reasons for a dog begging for food: hunger and previous reinforcement/lack of training. Firstly it may be that your dog is genuinely hungry. Evaluating what life stage your dog is at along with their weight and age will allow you to determine how much food they require. If you are at all concerned with your dog or you want a second opinion, always go to the vets. They will be able to tell you how much food they should be eating as well as what type. Furthermore, if they decide you have been feeding them the right amount and type, they can decide if a health concern may be the issue.
On the other hand, your dog may be begging for food because they have not been trained not to, or because they have regularly been fed scraps when they are begging. When your pup begs, if you give them food, you are positively reinforcing this behavior. Therefore they will continue begging in the future because they know this achieves their goal.
How Do I Know if My Dog is Begging for Food?
We have summarized some common begging behavior into three categories: vocalizations, dog to human interactions, and general dog behavior.
Two of the most common forms of vocalizations used by dogs when they are begging include whining and barking. Whining is a noise often used to communicate that something is wrong. Although this can be as serious as pain or injury, it can also be a minor inconvenience to your dog. In this case, the whining exists to say “I want some of your food and I currently don’t have any”. This is a repetitive noise that can become prolonged after a while because your dog is becoming more and more frustrated that they are not receiving food.
Dogs may also bark when begging for food. This is a more demanding vocalization which can often occur after whining has happened for some time. The barking can be anything from the occasional yap, the repeated barks. Furthermore, the barks can be interweaved with whining and there can be long periods of rest between both of these behaviors.
Many dogs will try to get your attention or signal that they want the food by interacting with you. For of the most common include pawing, nudging, moving their head onto you, and performing tricks. Let’s take a look.
- Pawing: This is when your dog deliberately places one of their paws onto you. It is a way to physically get your attention in case waiting and being vocal was not enough. Your dog may do this briefly and then remove their paw, or leave it there in hopes you will notice. Naughtier dogs may keep hitting their paw on you or use both paws to try to get your attention.
- Nudging: When your dog uses their nose to push you we call this nudging. It can be your hand, leg, anywhere, but this little push is an attempt at communication. In this case, your dog is trying to remind you they are waiting for food and have yet to be given any of yours.
- Placing their head on your lap or foot: By deliberately putting their head on you, it is a very clear reminder that they are still there. Doing so is also their way of trying to casually get closer to your plate and the food. It may be performed by more crafty individuals or by those that are more cuddly.
- Offering trained behaviors without being initiated: Smarter dogs will remember that they are given treats when they perform tricks or good behavior. Therefore, they may be trying to do so in order to be rewarded the food you are eating. This is a form of association based learning.
- Staring: By making constant eye contact, your dog is not only trying to get your attention, but not let you forget that they are present and waiting. Therefore, you will not forget and will in fact always remember that your dog is waiting for some of your food.
Some behavior your dog will display generally while begging include drooling, panting, and licking. The licking could be social, as they may be licking you to show affection in hopes of a reward. Moreover, it can also be a reminder of their presence. However, your dog may also be licking their lips. Often this is a sign of stress but in this case, it could be two things. The licking may be due to extra salivation as your dog is looking and thinking about food. It may also be that your dog is getting so excited by the thought of food that an adrenaline release has lead to this stress behavior.
As for drooling, this is a natural bodily response when food is present to aid in digestion. Panting on the other hand links back to an adrenaline response and stress. Their excitement can cause this hormonal response which results in panting due to an increased need for oxygen. Therefore these biological reactions can have behavioral responses that occur when begging.
What’s the Difference Between Begging or Just Hungry
Identifying if your dog is hungry or begging is a very important first step to making that change. It is possible that your dog may be underfed and that they genuinely require more food. Or, that they have a health condition that could be leading to increased appetite. This can help you to know if you need to alter their diet, visit a vet, or work on their training.
There is no obvious way to tell between begging and hunger, it requires a few observations and considerations. Firstly, a vet visit is the best first decision. They can talk to you about how much you are feeding them, and take blood tests or any others to check for parasites or illness. However, if you are looking for behaviors to identify at home, there are a few to consider. For example, if your dog is begging for food constantly, this may be a sign that they are constantly hungry. Also be sure to remember that just because your dog is hungry does not mean that they are not being fed enough. Health conditions can cause an increase in appetite.
Also be aware of your dog’s physical form as well as their weight. Compare your dog’s frame to vet-based advice on this website here. If they are overweight and still beg at the table then it is likely that they have either gotten into a bad habit or do have something wrong in regards to their health. Furthermore, if you believe your dog is hungry because they are often whining and panting, it may be that they are actually anxious or stressed. The adrenaline response can lead to multiple behaviors due to changes in your dog’s body. Therefore, it is important to analyze everything before coming to a conclusion.
There are a lot of health concerns that result in an appetite increase that can be minimal to very concerning. Here are a few to be aware of:
There are a lot more health concerns that could lead to an increased appetite, but as you can see, this can be a symptom of a range of concerns. Be aware of any other symptoms that could help your vet figure out the cause. Symptoms such as lethargy, changes in weight, lumps, changes in behavior, and hair loss. Any change from what is normal for your dog should be noted and relayed to the vet.
How Do I Train My Dog to Stop Begging
Ensuring your dog stops begging will take a lot of patience and persistence but it will work. If you are interested in pursuing that route.
Whenever your dog participates in any form of begging, you have to be sure to ignore them. They may put their head on your lap, paw at you, or even bark. You must make sure you avoid talking to them, eye contact, and especially do not give them attention like by stroking them. Over time your dog will begin to show less and less begging behavior because they realize that by doing so they do not gain any extra food. However, you must note that if at all you give your dog any food from the table after begging behavior has stopped, it will start all over again at full force. This is why consistency is key. At first, your dog’s begging behavior may increase, but it will diminish over time. So when it worsens initially, do not be surprised.
Spend some time with your dog teaching them a replacement behavior or trick. This means you can divert that energy when they beg into that behavior. So eventually, your dog should automatically perform that trick of behavior when you go to eat. One obvious example is making them go to their bed. Firstly, you need to teach them that trick in general, using positive reinforcement, and consistency. Once they have thoroughly learned the trick, this is when you can start getting them to associate you eating, with performing this trick. When they begin to bed, firmly say the command to them to get them to go to bed. If they do not follow, this may require more general training first. If they follow, make sure you send them to bed anytime they try to bed. There will come a time where they automatically go there when you eat.
Being so close to you eating and tables with food on may simply be too much for your pooch. One option you may want to consider is separating the dining table or you while you are eating from your dog. We don’t mean lock your dog in a room when they are scratching and climbing. Instead, you need to gradually train your dog to be calm and content going into a separate area and staying there. You may want to consider eating in a different room than your dog’s bed and sending them to their bed when you eat. You could also consider teaching them the names of each room. That way you can firmly tell them to go into the living room when you are in the dining room. Use positive reinforcement and gradually increasing time periods of being separated to help your dog learn.
Our final suggestion is to redirect their energy and attention when you go to eat. You sit down at the table and see that your dog is about to bark and paw at you. This is when you can use a remote-controlled toy to distract their attention so they play with it the whole time. It is also suggested to give your dogs treats whilst they eat or their tea. However, a problem with this is that your dog may view this as positive reinforcement. Therefore, if you are having a snack your dog may begin to expect food and become riled up if it is not given. If you are good at multitasking you can even play a small game of fetch or tug of war whilst eating. Although this is for those that truly don’t mind disruptions during dinner time.
Dog Begging For Food: FAQ
More questions? We’ve got you covered, take a look below.
If your dog has been confirmed to be hungry and not begging, then there are a few possible reasons. An improper diet, not enough food, or underlying health conditions are all possibilities. Ask your vet’s opinion on your dog’s diet and symptoms to find out more.
This is unique to your dog as their size, weight, age, and activity level can influence this. The average for an adult dog is twice a day, once in the morning, and once at night. But check with your vet to see their advice.
You should first find out why your dog is whining. If it is because of begging or you have stopped stroking them, yes, if it is because of a concern such as pain, absolutely not. If at all you have doubt then a vet visit is the route to go down. Whining can be a sign of something wrong and your pet is trying to tell you that.
This is dependent on your dog and the situation. Affection, aggression, play, anxiety, and even being hungry can all be possible causes. The best way to determine the exact cause is to look at their accompanying behavior and the situation they are in.
Ignoring, redirecting, and proper training can go a long way to help this problem. Furthermore, making sure your dog’s energy levels are properly met can help ensure they are not jumping all over you or pining after you. In severe cases your dog may have separation anxiety, which can be dealt with alone or with the aid of a behaviorist.
If you become concerned about your dog showing signs of hunger, always be sure to consult your vet. However, if you have a healthy pup that likes to beg, consider one of the four methods we have suggested. Proper training and positive reinforcement can go a long way to making your dog that model pup you’ve always wanted.