It's an age old debate. Will feeding a dog table scraps or human food create a begging habit?
The definitive answer: Feeding human food or human grade food does not turn dogs into beggars. Thankfully, more and more humans are steering clear of the mass commerical pet foods in favor of feeding their canine kid a healthy human-grade diet.
In taking phone calls daily from training clients and living amongst a rotational group of boarding dogs (90% eating human grade foods), I can assure you there is no mass rise in begging or behaviour problems associated with feeding dogs a human quality diet. In fact, feeding a human grade diet can HELP your dog both mentally and physically. Commercial foods are filled with cheap non-nutrtitive fillers and preservatives which contribute to health problems.
What creates a beggar?
Humans. Not their food, but their habits.
Owners may not realize it, but they actually train their pooches to beg. It has nothing to do with the food itself, but the routine and environment. If Fluffy is allowed to sit at the table, drool in your lap, whine and paw at you, she'll most certainly become a pro beggar. If you talk to your drooling diva while she is doing these things, even to say, "Hey Fluffy, shhhh...no begging," she will feel quite assured that she is communicating the right thing to you and that you are being responsive to her desires.
It's the human's response to the dog's behavior that teaches our smart pooches to express their desires in such a fashion. The dog is simply telling you what she wants and you are responding accordingly. To her, this is GREAT communication between the two of you!
Tips for preventing your dog from becoming a beggar:
1. Give Fluffy a job while you eat your dinner. Instead of tormenting her with the tantilizing smell of your food, feed her a meal at the same time OR give her an irresistible chew toy to work on. By doing so, your dog will never associate your meal time with delivery of food from the table, but will be very busy doing her own thing.
2. Never respond to your dog for offering demanding behaviour; including whining, barking or pawing at you. Saying, "No bark," or petting your dog in an attempt to cal her actually strengthens these behaviours. Instead, completely IGNORE your dog if she barks at you. No eye contact, no words. Just WAIT. When she is quiet THEN talk to her. If you've inadvertantly spent years training a really great demander or beggar, it may take a bit of time for your dog to understand these tactics no longer work, but it WILL happen if you are consistent and patient.
3. If need be, keep your dog separated or confined during meal time with a baby gate, crate or behind a closed door.I strongly urge new puppy owners to feed their pups all meals from a chew toy in the crate. It helps the puppy build a great association with her new bedroom and also prevents the habit from budding
When to feed human (or human grade) food:
1. Delivered in food stuffed toys or food dishes at each and every meal. There are 100s of quality human-grade dog foods available.
2. During training sessions - dice up tiny bits of boiled chicken or purchase high quality human grade treats in your local pet store. Feed your pup a tiny nibble for each desired behavior (sit, down, stay, look etc).
If it weren't my job to be a bit more verbose, the one sentence answer:
Don't feed your dog at the table while you are eating and he is whining.
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