Teach Your Dog to Beg
“What?” You say….shouldn’t I be writing about how to get your dog NOT to beg? Well, you would think so but often times in dog training you have to approach things from a different angle in order to be successful quickly.
My dog training background comes mostly from training Service Dogs for adults and children with disabilities. I was lucky that when I got started at an early age training dogs there was also a local prison that was training dogs for disabled individuals, working with the men and the dogs was truly a blessing and it changed my life. From that time on, I have done all that I can to continue to work with Service Dogs and the disabled even starting my own nonprofit organization.
When you train a Service Dog for someone with a disability, you quickly realize that physical force is out of the question, trainers can force the dogs to complete tasks but the disabled individual would not be able to use the same techniques, so you learn to use positive reinforcement to sculpt a dog to do all sorts of tasks and you even learn to train your dog to do some things that you will later never ask for again.
One of the first things I teach my dogs is how to beg. I start with a positive reinforcement game, which means when you do what I want you to do you get rewarded for your behavior. I ignore bad behavior, and only reward the things I like and I don’t use any real commands, I wait to see what behaviors my dog is willing to offer me.
When I first start this game off, I reward my new dog or puppy for sitting patiently. Each time my pup sits he gets a treat and praise, and if he continues to sit I continue to feed and praise him for his patience, because I don’t want a dog that bounces right up after a task. If he jumps on me I turn my back or ignore him, if he wanders away I wait until he returns and sits; but if he lays down I jackpot him.
Jackpots are larger treats (normally I use pea sized or smaller) or better treats. Sometimes I stuff a tool belt full of mediocre treats i.e. normal dog treats in one side and awesome treats i.e. chicken or cheese in the other side.
When my pup does something average but good, I reward with mediocre small treats, but if he completes a difficult task or one I really want to focus on I give the better higher value reward. This tells him YES that is the behavior I want to see from you. Dog training is about chaining behavior together, starting out small and then little by little requiring more and more.
Sit is the first and easiest thing to get a dog to do reliably. But, I like a dog that lays down and stays there most of the time. In my house, if in doubt lay down! So I shape and reward that behavior first and foremost. My pups learn from the moment they come home that laying down is where I want them.
I teach my dogs from an early age or straight out of the shelter if they want ANYTHING they must lay down in order to get it. I want them
to think they control their environment to some degree, so this is how I teach them to beg. If they want my ice cream cone, my hot dog, my affection, whatever the scenario they must lay down in order to have a shot at it. This behavior also transfers to other people in other situations if my dogs wander across a 3 year old eating an ice cream cone they aren’t gone to knock the kid down and run off with the prize, they are simply going to lay down at the toddler’s feet and wait to be rewarded. It is a great system!
In the beginning, I carry lots of treats with me so that I can reward the behavior right away going back to the scenario with the toddler I would give my puppy a treat and lots of praise and he would think “YES, they have to give me what I want”. This would cement the idea and ensure that he follows the same behavior pattern time and time again.
Then, I begin to fade the treats and provide my dogs with constant praise for a job well down and treats on occasion.
Finally, the clincher is if you like this behavior (and I do) I continue to reward my dogs randomly and on special occasions for the rest of their lives for adhering to this plan. I like to recognize a job well done and most people may never notice a dog calmly laying at their feet for attention or food but I like this calm, kind behavior.
But, if you don’t like this behavior in general and don’t want your dog to even lay down and beg, then you totally extinguish ever giving your dog a treat again while you are eating or while anyone else is eating. Your dog has already built the foundation for calm behavior and laying down so he will eventually stop begging but will likely to some degree still show acceptable behavior. He may even vacate the area and lay somewhere else.
Because I have trained and worked with Service Dogs for so long I have taught my dogs to lay down under the table while we eat, this way they can’t see me and I can’t see them so there is no way for them to sit and beg and this system works at our house.
Sometimes even teaching a behavior you don’t want and then never asking for it again is an extremely effective way to teach your dog not to do something. I guarantee you this works on a variety of behaviors! And, this is a much happier more fun way to train than using force! Good luck and have fun training!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.