I was in Kennesaw last Tuesday with a new Home Dog Training client and his Boxer named Timmie.  Like most Boxers, Timmie was full of energy and just wanted to run and play.  We taught our client how to control Timmie and worked on some behavioral and obedience exercises.  Timmie responded very well and our client was very happy.  We went through his entire list of “Timmie Problems” and proceeded to wrap up the lesson.  Just like in the old Colombo TV show where the detective would always have one parting question, so did our client.  He remembered that Timmie would always be stealing food from the table.  He wondered what he could do with Timmie to have him stop doing that and to let them have their dinner in peace and quiet.

We always start off by telling our clients that there is one thing that they need to understand about dogs stealing food from the table.  Dogs do not place an absolute ownership on food.  If they see food that doesn’t seem to belong to anyone, it is the same as finding a dead animal in the forest.  If they are hungry, they see no problem in eating the food.  In a similar light, if we leave food unattended, our dog sees that no body owns the food and it becomes available for him.

In an extension of this idea, it is still not right for our client’s dog to demand food from their table.  If our client is showing their dog leadership while building a bond, establishing trust, and delivering companionship; their dog will see them as their caregiver and leader.  It is a natural state that the dog never takes food from their caregiver and leader unless allowed.

When our client’s dog tries to take food from the table while they are at the table, he is breaking that natural rule and our client, who is the dog’s leader, must correct that action. To do this, our client must set the scene to allow their dog to either try and steal the food or respect them and ignore the food.  I gave my client the following exercise to resolve the issue:

  • Create a boundary around your table establishing an area you don’t want your dog to come when you are eating at the table.
  • Provide toys, goodies, or even your dog’s dinner on the other side of the boundary.
  • Make sure you have put a leash on your dog.
  • Make one or two plates of “smelly food” that could have cheese, cold cuts, hamburger meat, etc. and put them on the table.  This is your “pretend dinner”.
  • All the people with the “pretend dinner” now must sit down at the table. You should keep your chairs just enough away from the table so that you can easily get up without having to push the chairs back.  You should sit on the chair so that you can easily stand.
  • Now you should start to make “yummy” eating sound and nibble on the food while you watch your dog out of the corner of your eye.
  • If your dog starts to get close to the boundary you have created, rapidly get up, face your dog, and loudly say “No” using a strong, “I mean it” voice.  If you need to, calmly pick up the leash and guide him out of the boundary area and back to his place.
  • Praise your dog with a high pitched “Good Boy” for doing the right thing.
  • Go back to your chair while always facing your dog.
  • Calmly sit back down and repeat the “eating distraction” until your dog looses interest and does not approach you.
  • Practice this every day until your dog doesn’t approach the table while you are eating.

Dealing with a bothersome dog while the family is at the dinner table is never any fun.  Do this training tip regularly and we are sure you will soon have a great time at the dinner table.

Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 or (770) 718-7716 if you need any dog training help.  We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over fifteen years.  We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.