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Why your dog is always begging for food even when it's not hungry

Whitney Coy is a freelance writer and editor based in Columbus, OH, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She writes frequently for SheKnows, as well as several other websites. She writes on topics including parenting, pets...

Dogs begging for food is a behavioral pattern you need to break

Does it seem like your dog would be happy with a bottomless food bowl? Is your dog right under your feet every time you handle food — both its and yours?

As a pet owner, you don't want to feed your pet too much, and you don't want to stuff your face while it starves in the corner, either. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to tell if your dog is really hungry.

David Levin, owner of dog walking and training company Citizen Hound, says it's pretty much impossible to tell if your dog is hungry or not. "That's why dog food labels come with recommended feeding amount instructions," he explained. "Those labels usually offer a range based on your dog's ideal body weight. You should also consider the dog's activity level when deciding which end of the recommended range to feed."

Celebrity dog trainer Joel Silverman says you also need to make sure your dog isn't sick when it is begging for food more than usual. "Keeping a close eye on your dog’s body weight is crucial," he said. "If you feed your dog the recommended amount of dog food you see on the bag of dog food, there is really only a slim chance your dog is not going to be getting enough food. If for some reason you think your dog is too thin, take him to your veterinarian and get his opinion."

"More times that not," added Silverman, "the main reason dogs beg for food is because we have reinforced that behavior, either knowingly or unknowingly."

Levin says that dogs aren't that much different from people when it comes to food. "Many of us eat when we're not hungry or eat more than we need to eat," he said. "Eating foods, especially ones that are more flavorful and novel to the ones we're used to, light up the pleasure centers in our brains. Dogs don't have the same self-awareness we do, to understand that eating anything and everything they desire is bad for them so they should hold off."

We feel ya, pup. Sometimes, we're not so great at that either.

If your dog is begging for food more than you would like, try these tricks to curb that behavior:

  • Reward with toys or words, not food
  • Make your dog sit at least 6 feet from the table when you eat
  • Never feed your dog food from your table
  • Only put food in your dog's bowl when it's time to eat
  • Feed your dog when you eat

Levin reminded us that dogs learn from reinforced behaviors, so it's all about behaviors and consequences. "If a dog begs and the owner gives in, the behavior was just reinforced, and it's more likely to happen again. To win at training, you often have to outlast a dog's willpower, and they can be quite strong!"

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