Begging 101

How many times have I heard "bad dog, no begging?"  The human perception of begging is an odd one. 

Begging - asking for something, typically food or money, as charity or a gift.

Begging as we call it is quite normal in the canine world.  When a dog wants to acquire something; either food or material object they make their intentions known by staring at us.  This is what we call begging.  Like any behavior there is a wide spectrum of begging behaviors; from the totally acceptable to the not so acceptable at all.  

What I call not acceptable is pawing, barking, sitting one inch from my food or drooling on my leg.  What is acceptable is sitting and looking at me from a good distance.  If I say move away, they need to move away. Better still, they can go sit on their bed while I eat.  As long as my dog is not attempting to physically get my food from me, I'm pretty good with it.   

Think about this.  Most of our dogs are quite capable of simply taking our food.  The big ones can out muscle us and just take it.  Can you imagine having a dog that you had to hide from to eat?  Dogs need to learn that we are the top dog; when we eat they can watch but they cannot take.  Picture a pack of wolves; think the alpha wolves allow stealing?  Not a chance.  But there is what we call begging going on.  All the subordinate wolves are sitting as close as legally possible in attempts of getting a piece of the pie. 

Begging is a behavior that can lead to other behaviors.  If a dog has pushed the begging to an unacceptable stage of moving in; then stealing can follow closely.  It is important to make it very clear what's yours is yours; sharing is an option left solely to you, the human.  When it comes to sharing, you can do it but not always.  Your pooch should not assume that they will have some of what you are eating always.  I have to remember not to share, because Luke and Elsa can eat most of what I do.  

When I do share it is very structured.  Can you leave your plate of food on the coffee table and leave the room?  You should be able to.  Of course it can take a great deal of practice to get to that stage.  The message you deliver and how serious you are about food belonging to you will factor in on how much work it would be to get to the walk away stage. 

You must imbed the "this is mine" message into your own head before trying to teach it to your dog.   They must clearly understand that it belongs to you, until you say otherwise. 

Begging is  not a bad thing; in fact it is quite normal.  Watching and wanting is normal, acting on that requires feedback and strategic training.