If you’re familiar with my take on dog training, you probably aren’t shocked if I start this blog post off by saying that to fix this issue, we first need to understand why it’s happening in the first place.
That said, food is something that sometimes even humans can’t control their impulses over. But for most pet parents facing this issue, let’s first dig into how we can prevent the unwanted behaviour before providing the alternatives, that will help manage it as well.
To start, why a lot of dogs even feel the need to come anywhere close to the dinner table is not actually to get food, but rather to get attention. Thus meaning that if we’re able to get to the point where a dog isn’t at all bothered to get your attention at all during dinner time, we can then altogether avoid the issue of stealing food.
How do we get to that point? Mental and physical enrichment of course!
Very simply put, if dinner time is at 6 pm, and we want our dog to be relaxed by 5:30-6 pm, what should/do we need to do by around 5 pm to get there? Start with some fun tug-and-pull, and/or fetch games to drain some of that physical energy. Followed by some food puzzles and snuffle mats, or even some obedience training tricks to get that mental energy out of the way (using your dog’s meal). And perhaps top it all off with a quick little walk around the block to decompress.
As you walk back in and begin serving dinner, bring outside of the freezer a delicious stuffed kong that’ll encourage your dog to remain calm and occupied, while you get started on your dinner.
If this doesn’t help at all or perhaps just for a little bit, as you see your dog approach the table, this is where you will want to guide them back towards their bed or place of rest (with the leash as needed) and give them a few seconds before they settle on their own, which is when you will bring out a few small pieces of their treat to reward this waiting behaviour.
It’s important to continue and practice doing this, even after we’ve done everything to prevent this scenario, because we’re still working on preventing on the behaviour of your dog making his way all the way to the table, while also showing them a new behaviour of waiting away and being rewarded for that.
Eventually, combining both proper physical and mental stimulation outlets with ongoing guidance to avoid unwanted outcome will help your dog find joy in the new steps you’ve laid in front of them and start to forget the previous habit.