Begging and stealing food - help!

Discussion in 'Labrador behaviour' started by tuckerklaura, Aug 15, 2016.

  1. tuckerklaura

    tuckerklaura Registered Users

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    Hello everyone, I hope you all had a great weekend. I've had really great advice from this forum before, so thought i'd try my luck with the one and only thing that we're left struggling with: Begging for, and stealing food! Our 15 month old black Lab Murphy has always been food-orientated (are there any that aren't??) and we have never given in to his attempts at begging while we are eating, or given him food other than during his own meal times or treats for training/good behaviour. Yet he still, at every meal time (unless he is absolutely exhausted and fast asleep somewhere), insists on begging. He will move around the table trying his luck with each of us - soppy eyes, resting his chin on our laps or worse, the table, pushing his nose/mouth up to the table to try and lick whatever's there, if we move away from the table for any reason, he will try and climb up to reach whatever is there. It's relentless! Our approach has been to try and ignore entirely, but when he starts to get closer and closer we have to move him away. If there are kids eating with us, it's virtually impossible for us to avoid him taking food from their hands or plates. We have tried making him stay in his bed while we eat with one of his favourite toys or treats, but it never lasts. We have tried shutting him in another room while we eat but he just cries and cries, and to be honest we don't want to adopt this approach - he is a family dog and we want him around, but with a baby on the way we desperately want to curb this behaviour so that I don't have to constantly fend him off! The worst-case scenario is that we have actually found him, all fours, up on the dining table helping himself to plates if we leave the table for a couple of minutes. He is, otherwise, incredibly well behaved but I would appreciate any advice on how to nip this in the bud. Thanks so much in advance.
     
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  2. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    It sounds like he has unintentionally been rewarded for begging, by taking food (or even just a lick of sticky fingers) from the children, which means his begging has been successful and reinforced. I would either make use of baby gates/pen/crate in the short term during meals times so you can relax, or work a bit harder on your "bed" requirements. Just like anything else in training, this has to be built up over time, which means in the short term, you may be getting up to reward him in his bed every 10-15 seconds. Of course, that's going to be rather inconvenient when you're trying to eat yourself, so maybe stage some scenarios outside of actual meal times and use the management approach (physical barriers) for now at actual meals. Build it up slowly, and you'll end up with a dog that will settle on his bed for the entirety of your meal. Give him a big jackpot reward every now and again during training, and always at the end of the session, so that he learns it's more rewarding to stay there than to come to the table when you're eating. You could also try using a frozen kong, but this isn't really teaching him to stay on his bed - it's just distracting him. This might be a useful tool for after the meal, though, when you're in and our to the kitchen and there are still plates on the table. Again, with this, training combined with management is the key.
     
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  3. tuckerklaura

    tuckerklaura Registered Users

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    This is great @snowbunny - thank you so much! We will definitely start putting this training into action this evening. Thanks very much for the advice.
     
  4. Naya

    Naya Registered Users

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    Fiona has given some really good advice above.
    I have trained Harley to go on her bed once she has eaten her dinner to stop her begging. It really does work
     
  5. tuckerklaura

    tuckerklaura Registered Users

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  6. tuckerklaura

    tuckerklaura Registered Users

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    Sorry, sent too soon - @snowbunny and @Naya, we started training last night and it went really well! Managed to get him to stay in his bed the whole way through our own dinner, albeit having to get up every 10-15 seconds to reward him for staying there. But it worked and we'll stick to it until it's fully engrained! Many thanks again.
     
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  7. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    Great, well done! :)
     
  8. MF

    MF Registered Users

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    We had to go back to these basics. Snowie is 4.5 years old and recently learned to beg at the table. As a puppy we were very strict and he never came to the table when we ate, simply lay on his bed. But I was away for a few weeks some months ago and my husband felt sorry for Snowie (and no doubt himself) and shared his meals with Snowie at the table with expected results... a dog that begs at the table!

    We have now become strict and ignore him at the table. We ask any friends who are visiting to ignore him, too (it is embarrassing when he puts his head under their arm as they are eating and waits in anticipation!). We don't have young kids with sticky fingers around so we do have an easier time.

    We reward him for being on his bed, and in fact, the other evening, when we took the butter out of the fridge -- his ALL TIME favourite treat -- he raced to his bed! Aw had to treat him then, it was too adorable (perhaps we were doing the wrong thing in that moment, I don't know?).

    Now that his back is so much better (recovering from a bulging disc) he can jump up onto his hindquarters easily and is back to counter surfing. Also can't leave any food around, he'll help himself. I've also stopped taking him to a favourite walking spot because there are many homeless people who lie under the trees and he steals their food (incredibly embarrassing). I'd love tips on how to stop him helping himself to food... but I suspect this is an impossible feat? His improved back is so improved that on our walks, on garbage collection day, he has jumped up against a couple of wheelie bins and knocked them over. I live in an area with very steep roads and both times the wheelie bins of course opened downhill and all the rubbish poured out. In one case, one bin knocked another and I had two bins spewing other people's garbage. I spent 10-15 minutes of our walk picking up garbage while Snowie munched through who knows what (at that point I could either control his eating or pick up the garbage, so I chose the civic-minded thing to do!). He's now kept on a tight rein on bin day!
     
  9. Oberon

    Oberon Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    MF, you did the right thing to give Snowie a treat for running to his bed :) Next time you can make him wait on his bed for a few seconds before he gets the treat.
     
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