Sunday afternoon and your new wife’s parents are coming to dinner. You have noticed a bit of resentment from her side of the family, but this dinner shows them that you are indeed capable of controlling your household. The house is perfect, the table is beautiful, and the food smells and looks delicious. Unfortunately, your Cocker Spaniel thinks so too and is sitting up and begging for morsels off everyone’s plate and, if not rewarded, attempting to take the food on his own.
You may be king of your castle, but this dog’s behavior makes you look like the court jester. How could this have been avoided? Sadly, this is not all the dog’s fault, and it started a very long time ago. Some misguided individuals trying to be a good pet owner did this while the pup was still very young and trained the dog for this very behavior.
Want to know who taught your dog this trick? It’s a secret, so listen carefully… It was YOU. Now before you get upset and quit reading, take a moment to realize that you weren’t consciously training your pet for this unwanted behavior, and you did it with the best of intentions. No one is blaming you, but the action is here now and must be dealt with. Knowing how to fix the problem is easiest when knowing from whence it came, and by now, I am sure you are starting to figure that out. Your dog learned this trick from all those times when, however well-meaning you were, the little scraps of food were tossed down to a cute little pup who stared up with sad brown eyes and left you overpowered with guilt as you looked at his dish of dog kibble and your plate with steak and potatoes. Those moments when your kind-hearted generosity overstepped its boundaries and created the begging monster that we find flipping your mother in laws chair over today for a bite of the beef tip. All of this could have been prevented by a simple act of will power then, but now you have a problem dealing with it. So how do we stop this begging fiend?
The first step is doing what you should have done when Fido was still a pup and quit rewarding the behavior by not giving in and not paying attention to it, perhaps even confining the animal to its kennel or a separate room during meal or snack times if this is difficult. This suggestion is especially useful if you have young children in the household who tend to reward the animal with the foods that they do not favor. Please ensure everyone in the family knows not to share their meals with the dog and follow this rule no matter what the circumstance. When the dog isn’t rewarded in the manner, he is accustomed to. The real battle will begin. He will decide that he isn’t receiving enough attention and begin to whine and howl loudly in the complaint of the treatment.
Do not give in, or the battle is lost and will be harder in the next round. The process will take consistent work for several weeks, and one weak moment of slipping the dog a treat to be beautiful can ruin all the prior training, so standing your ground and enforcing the rule of not giving mealtime treats to the dog is a must. Some useful ideas for stopping the begging are appropriate to mention here. One great one is to feed the dog while the rest of the family eats, preferably in a separate room. This way, the dog has its meal and will not feel the need to take food from others in the household. If this is not an option, perhaps give your pet a toy to play with, thus keeping them occupied throughout mealtime.
No matter how you choose to handle the situation, Consistent and rigid training is the only effective way to correct it. Every member and guest of your household must enforce the rules, or all your work will be of no avail. However, if you follow these rules, you will be blessed with a healthier pet, a happier household, and pride in your well-mannered canine friend.
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