How to keep dogs from begging from, and even biting, guests at dinner

2cute4wordz12600 asks: My friend has two dogs that constantly beg under the table. They have gotten so used to human food they are begging under the table to the point where they bite guests who don’t drop food. Her family is so embarrassed. How should they get her to stop?

Wow, 2Cute, that’s a doozy! Your friends really have two problems. One is something I regard as minor (begging), and the other is huge (biting guests!). I’m hoping you mean that they’re doing little nips, just to get the guests’ attention, and not really chomping down on the poor folks! If the dogs are really fully biting people, nothing I’m saying here will help; your friends must get a real professional trainer right away.

But assuming that’s not the case, let me take each issue separately. Begging is totally normal. It’s in our DNA. We dogs are very nice beings, and consider you humans to be the bosses, so we’re just being polite by asking for something we want. When you were younger, you were probably taught to ask for things in a certain way, such as with “Excuse me, may I please have a banana split with three kinds of ice cream and extra hot fudge and two brownies and an extra bowl of whipped cream and twelve cherries and…” Oh MAN that sounds good!

But I’m getting off the topic. You should have been taught manners so that your “begging” would be acceptable to adults. But even with those manners, you know you’ll really annoy adults if you’re asking them for things all the time, right? So these dogs, who are behaving just as they’re supposed to, are being annoying the same way. Now when Handsome is home alone with me, he’s very happy to have me sit next to him while he eats, and he gives me little bits of what he’s eating (as long as it’s stuff that’s okay for dogs). And I love that! But when he has guests over, I know that I have to stay further away from the table. I’m not allowed to beg. (But I lie there watching like a hawk, because I know, if anything falls off the table and hits the ground, it’s automatically mine!!).

The key here is “consistency.” Your friends need to teach the dogs that they can never be under the table while people are eating there. And that they are not allowed to beg from behind people either! The easiest way to teach this is to, when the dogs come to the table, say “No” very directly, and then lead the dogs away from the table, and then pet them (and even perhaps give them a treat) for staying over there. The dogs will want to please their people, so they’ll probably adjust to this quickly. But if the dogs refuse to obey, your friends should then put them outdoors, or in another room, during meals, until they learn the better way of behaving. Believe me, the dogs will come around eventually, because they really like to be around their human friends – especially when eating is going on!

Now, onto the biting issue. If it’s just little nibbles, that’ll probably be fixed by the training I just suggested. But if it is more, then it can become a really big problem. Even though the dog might not mean to be vicious, a bite could result in a person being hurt or injured, or even in your friends being sued or having to give the dog away! This has to be stopped right now!

The first thing for your friends to do is to set up a “Zero Tolerance” policy. That means that any time their dog bites or even gets set to bite someone, they come down hard on the pooch. Yell loud, push the dog to the ground and over onto its back, and hold it there while it struggles for a few seconds, till it calms down. This is how dogs communicate. The dog will understand them saying, “I’m the boss, and you can not do that!” (Now I’ll say it again, I’m assuming the dogs aren’t so ferocious that that would be dangerous for your friends to do. If they are scared of their own dogs, they have to get a good professional trainer to work with them at once.).

Then the second thing for your friends to do (again, only if they trust that their dogs aren’t really vicious) is to give their guests little squirt guns. Then if the dogs ever try to bite them, they should shoot them with water, right in the face. It won’t hurt the dogs, but it will startle them. At that point, your friends should step right in and pull them away and calm them down.

Okay, Gems, I think this might be the longest answer I’ve ever given! So let me go over the important points one more time:

1) If the dogs are truly vicious, nothing of what I say here will do any good. Instead, your friends must get a good dog trainer right away to work with them.
2) To stop the begging, the people need to consistently keep the dogs away from them when they eat, at least at the table.
3) To stop the biting, they need to assert their dominance over the dogs, and then give guests squirt-guns to stop the dogs if they should try to bite them.

Now, one big note on this. Your friends might have some guests who think it’s “funny” to shoot a squirt gun at a dog. If they squirt the dog when it isn’t trying to bite, then it confuses the dog, and just teaches it that people are mean. If a guest does this, your friends should take their squirt gun away from them at once. They need to be trained more than the dogs do!

Oh, and don’t forget: if the dogs behave right, and your friends give the dogs some little leftovers after the meal, to reward them for good behavior, that’ll help teach them faster, and they’ll be happier too!

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