We've all seen those cute tiktok, Instagram and Facebook videos of dogs stealing food. And while viral counter-surfing dogs may be entertaining, it's not a great habit for any pet.
If your dog has taken food from a table or countertop once, chances are they'll do it again. This can be disastrous if the food isn't suitable for dogs. And it's a practice that can make mealtimes unpleasant for your family and anyone visiting your home.
Stealing food and begging at the dinner table is typical canine conduct. But it's one that you can manage if you're willing to put in the time and effort. It may be a little tedious, but once your dog gets it, dinner time will be much less stressful.
Food theft is a natural and intuitive behaviour for your dog. And in the wild, canines scavenged to survive. So, with this in mind, let's acknowledge that you'll likely need to teach your dog not to do it.
But, DNA isn't the only cause of counter-surfing. And identifying any other issues might help decide how to tackle the issue.
So here’s our top ten tips for keeping your dog away from the dinner table and out of the kitchen.
Make sure your puppy has a clean bill of health. Some illnesses can increase dogs appetite, making them feel hungrier.
So, a visit to the vet might be the right place to start if your dog is begging at the dinner table or stealing food.
Boredom and a lack of exercise will generally lead to bad habits like stealing food. If you can, get someone to exercise your dog before mealtime. A dog is much more likely to leave you alone at mealtimes if they are worn out.
Review what you're feeding your dog and make sure it is getting enough to eat. Feed your canine high-quality dog food and try changing it once in a while, so they don't get bored.
Dogs will often steal things like socks or shoes, which have the scent of their owner; they miss them. They may even steal food from the bin or countertops.
The best way to stop the behaviour is to remove the opportunity. Changing your own habit once you become a dog owner is inevitable. But, you will also need to deal with the fact that you have an anxious pup.
Baby gates and closed doors will stop your dog from coming into the food preparation or dining area.
Give your dog a bone, or other chewable treats while you eat. Or have a mealtime specific toy to keep them entertained. Make sure they chew or consume the treat or toy in a space other than the kitchen or dining area.
Some dogs don't know that stealing food and begging at the dinner table is inappropriate. Usually, this is due to a lack of any type of training. If you're crate-training, put him in the crate while you prepare and eat your meal.
Ignore any barking or howling and any other attention-seeking behaviour. Any reaction will only encourage the behaviour.
Make sure your dog only eats from their own bowl in a designated area of the house. This way, your dog will learn the difference between their food and yours.
Crime and punishment
If you punish your dog for bad behaviour, it will only learn to commit the crime when you're not around. Try positive reinforcement like giving treats when your pooch does something right.
Time and Consistency
Don't ignore the problem. Try a command that tells your dog to do something else, such as 'outside' or 'go to bed'. A command that tells your dog to leave the area is a simple tactic.
Training works if you're consistent. Avoid giving in and handing your dog tidbits from the table. Ever. This needs to be a household rule. Rules can be difficult to enforce with small children around. But they must learn not to feed dogs human food as soon as possible. The same goes for any guests too. Let them know this important household rule whenever people come over.
Not vacuums, not garbage bins
We hate throwing away leftovers, but dogs are not the answer to our waste problem. Also, dogs will dig around in the garbage if something smells good, so make sure they can't access your kitchen bin and that you empty it regularly.
Dogs love the smell of our delicious human food. But it's our job as owners to teach them good manners and acceptable behaviour. After all, a dog that understands boundaries and rules is a happier, healthier pooch.
Teaching your pup manners should start at a young age when possible. It's much easier to prevent begging than it is to stop your dog once they start. Of course, with more and more people adopting, this isn't always feasible. But training your dog can begin at any time. And our simple guide should help establish some good table manners.