I was in Buckhead yesterday at a follow-up Home Dog Training visit with a client and his Labradoodle, Chloe.  Their initial issues were learning simple obedience commands such as come, sit, and stay.  Their Labradoodle also had some issues with walking and jumping.  They had been practicing with Chloe and it showed.  Most of these initial issues had been solved or were long on their way of being corrected.  We reinforced and expanded the commands to help continue the successful progress Chloe was demonstrating.  As usual, I then asked what my client what he would like to address next.  He said that Chloe also had a really big problem with begging at the table.  Every time they would sit down for dinner, she would beg, whine, and eventually jump on the table to try and steal a piece of food.  That made trying to have a pleasant meal impossible.  He said that they were locking their Labradoodle in the back bedroom so they could just have something to eat.  It would be really great if that could be corrected.

We always think it is just natural that our dogs beg at the table and sometimes even find it amusing when it is constantly happening to another family member.  In reality, having Chloe beg and try to steal food at the table is a problem not only for the person taking the “brunt of the beg”, but all at the table.  That is your food and her action of trying to take it directly away from you either shows confusion or disrespect.  I then continued to explain to my client what he needed to do to make sure that Chloe no longer attempts to steal their dinner.

The first thing that I told my client was to be sure he wasn’t sending Chloe mixed signals.  He needed to make sure that Chloe understood his leadership and his role in providing Chloe all her food.  He needed to remember some simple steps to reinforce this.

  • Only give Chloe her dinner in her food bowl. Do not let her jump for it.  Do not let her have the bowl until she is calmly sitting and waiting for him to present it to her.
  • If he wanted to his Labradoodle some left-overs, that is fine. He must be sure that these are only given to her in her food bowl and she has to sit calmly and quietly as he puts the bowl down on the ground.
  • Give Chloe her food treats outside. Since treats normally aren’t given in a food bowl, I explained that he had to create a clear delineation of where receiving other food is acceptable. I suggested he give Chloe her Goodies outside, away from the inside dining room table.
  • Although this was obvious, I told him to never feed Chloe from the table. This is showing his acceptance of a rule he is trying to enforce.  Chloe understands “I can” or “I can’t” have food from the table.  Giving her food from the table will only confuse her and have her believe that going for food at the table is always fine.

Next, I set up a little dog training exercise that he could perform with Chloe and the rest of the family.  The end result of the exercise was to have Chloe not bothering the family when they were eating dinner at the table.  Since they needed to establish simple, consistent, and repetitive rules for Chloe, they needed to create a singular action for her to perform when they were eating at the table.

We find that creating a boundary exercise is most productive when wanting to have your dog not bother you at the table while you are eating dinner.  I told my client that he should establish an invisible line (or boundary) around the table that he didn’t want his Labradoodle to cross when they were eating.  The simple rule he was going to teach was “Don’t be here when we are eating” and “here” was defined as inside the line he created.  Now, we were ready to start.

  • I asked that he make up a plate of food with the smell and sight that would fool Chloe to think that it was a dinner plate.
  • I had several members of the family sit at the table. I had him place the plate of food in front of him and had him move his chair slightly away from the table.
  • Chloe was at the other end of the room on a leash held by another family member. When they were all seated, I asked that the leash be dropped.
  • We now waited to see if Chloe would maintain or break the rule of “Don’t cross this line”.
  • When Chloe began to cross the line, I had my client stand up and give her a low toned, firm NO. If needed, he used the squirt bottle with water I had provided him at the first lesson to reinforce the NO with a physical squirt.
  • As soon as Chloe crossed back across the line, he praised her good decision and slowly sat down.
  • We continued to watch Chloe to see if she would challenge the rule again.
  • Chloe started to cross the line a second time and I instructed my client to stand, issue his firm, low toned NO, and to give a little reinforcement.
  • Chloe moved away from the table and lay down.

I also suggested that it would be helpful to provide a distraction for Chloe when they are eating.  He might feed Chloe at the same time they have dinner or he could give her a toy during dinner time.  It also could help if they had a nice bit of play time outside before dinner so his Labradoodle would be more interested in napping than table surfing.  He was excited with the results and was looking forward to practicing his new lesson.

Being calm and letting your dog understand what you want in a simple and consistent way will always help her follow your rule and will contribute to a great relationship.

We encourage you to call Robin or myself at (770) 718-7704 with all your dog training and dog obedience questions.  We have a lot of good dog training advice at Best Dog Trainers Buckhead Georgia.  Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Buckhead Georgia.