Thanksgiving is all about enjoying food with your family. While your dog is an important part of the family, you might want to keep all the delicious turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes for you and your human company to enjoy. If your dog is begging for food as you eat Thanksgiving dinner, your unsuspecting relatives may be annoyed by your dog’s persistence or they may give in and ruin your dog’s diet by succumbing to the pressure.
If your dog is often begging at your table, this behavior will not disappear on its own by Thanksgiving. To avoid any begging-related troubles over the holidays, get prepared before Thanksgiving by training your dog to stop begging for table scraps. Don’t expect your dog to stop begging before Thanksgiving cold turkey!
Your dog begs for food because they have been conditioned to think that their barking, pawing, or whimpering results in a treat. Those sad puppy dog eyes are often wielded against an owner sitting down to a plate of delicious-smelling food. Simply ignoring your dog, once the learned behavior has settled in, may not be enough to retrain them, though you can try this first. When your dog begs with you at the dinner table, don’t even make eye contact with them or tell them not to beg. Ignore them entirely, as if dogs turn invisible once their owners sit down to eat.
If ignoring your dog’s begging is not enough to dissuade them, the first thing to tackle is your dog’s hunger. Before you eat your own dinner, feed your dog. It is best if you feed them elsewhere in the house. For example, if you eat in the dining room, you can feed your dog in the kitchen. If it is not yet feeding time for your dog, you can put your dog in a room or crate, if they are crate trained, where they are far enough away from the dinner table that they can’t interrupt. You can use baby gates to block off an entryway they may use to get back into the dining room.
Once in this other room, tell your dog to “stay.” If they do not yet know how to “stay,” you can train them in this simple command. Other behavioral commands, such as “sit” or “leave it” may also come in handy as you are retraining your dog to stop begging by Thanksgiving.
Your dog may still understand what is happening when you remove them from the dining room at dinnertime. If they are whimpering and carrying on, you can give them a toy that slowly dispenses food. This will retrain them to feel rewarded for being away from the dinner table at dinnertime. Another way to keep your pup entertained is to hide a few treats in the room you have put them in. You can also put the radio on for your dog.
If your dog is insistent on joining you in the same room you eat dinner, make sure that your dog has a comfortable spot to relax that is away from the table. Tell them to “stay” or “lay down” so they can relax and feel like they are a part of the family without interrupting dinner. It is very important that everyone who is coming over for Thanksgiving knows that they cannot give the dog table scraps. Make sure everyone is aware of all the hard work you have been doing because just a few bites of a juicy piece of turkey could undo all the hard work you have done retraining your dog not to beg.
Learn more about your dog’s diet in “The 10 Best Human Foods for Dogs”.