Begging behavior can range from a minor irritation to a major annoyance depending on how often it occurs, how relentless it is, and who it’s aimed at. If your pet’s begging is driving you or anyone else in your household crazy, it’s time to do something about it.
Dogs and cats can beg for food, for attention, for a walk, to be let outdoors, or basically anything they want but need a person’s assistance in getting. Pets continue to beg because the behavior has been successful in the past. Every owner has given in to begging at some point, even if they’ve done so inadvertently. Sometimes we’ll comply because the behavior is awfully cute and not too pushy, at least to begin with. At other times, we might reward the pet through no fault of our own. For example, a dog that finds a few old crumbs under the kitchen table may associate his find with the begging that preceded it. Finally, people often reward their pet’s begging when they actually think they are reacting negatively to it. As illogical as it might seem, yelling or pushing a pet away that is begging for attention is actually giving them what they see- attention.
The only way to stop dogs and cats from begging is to make the behavior wholly unrewarding. The best way to do this is to ignore begging pets completely. If their behavior is so intrusive that ignoring them is impossible, put them in a separate room or a pet crate before the situation that brings about begging arises. However, it’s best to make this a positive experience for the pet. For instance, if a dog begs during dinner put him in his crate and feed him his own meal at that time.
Ignoring begging is not the same as ignoring the pet. Dogs and cats obviously need to eat, deserve attention and stimulation, and should be treated to a little something extra every now and then. To prevent these positive interactions from being seen by pets as a reward for begging they should only occur when the activity is instigated by the owner, not the pet. Institute a “nothing in life is free” or “say please” rule in the house. Pets can only get what they want after they’ve first done what their owner wants. For example, a dog must “shake hands” before you’ll throw a ball, or a cat must sit calmly beside you before you’ll scratch her chin.
With persistence and patience, it is possible to teach pets not to beg.