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Is your Dog a Hungry Wolf?


A dog is always hungry. (Rachel Jones)

From Rachel Jones. Email her at rjones[AT]borderstan.com. She is  she is the owner of K-9 Divine and a professional dog trainer,

No matter how much you feed your dog, she always wants more, especially when you are eating. All dog owners have received desperate pleadings for food at the dinner table. Is begging a necessary doggie ritual? Absolutely not!

The first thing to remember is that dogs are domesticated wolves. Their DNA is still nearly identical to that of wolves. In the wild, food is hard to come by. Wild canids sometimes go for many days without eating, and they must learn to bear hunger patiently.

Pet dogs possess the same level of patience. Unfortunately, most pet dogs do not learn to be patient; by always getting what they want, they develop intolerance for frustration that manifests itself in obnoxious behaviors like barking, whining and jumping.

When a wolf is in between meals, he cannot afford to waste precious calories on unnecessary activities. Therefore, when not actually hunting, wolves try to stay as still as possible. Domestic dogs have the same programming:

They will not engage in behaviors that get them nothing. This is the most important fact to know about your dog. If you do not reinforce your dog for begging, he will stop! Not reinforcing behavior means not paying any attention to the dog when she is engaging in the behavior. Attention can be positive or negative. In order to completely ignore your dog when she is begging, you must avoid all eye contact, talking, yelling, touching or correcting.

In or Out of the Room During Your Mealtimes?

How do you ignore your dog during mealtimes? First, your dog does not always need to be in the room with you when you are cooking or eating. If you have a puppy, put him in his crate or in another room during dinner. This will prevent him from being able to engage in begging at all.

If you want to have your dog in the room while you are eating, you must be prepared to ignore barking, whining, staring or jumping. It will take your dog several weeks to catch on to the fact that he is getting nothing from begging, so you must consistently ignore him every time, no matter how annoying the behavior gets. If you feel yourself losing your temper, it is always better to quietly move your dog to another room than to yell or correct the dog. Punishment is just another form of attention.

Remember that a well-fed dog has no reason to beg for food. If she is doing so, it is because you are reinforcing the behavior in some way. Eliminate the reinforcement and you will eliminate the begging.

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- who has written 19 posts on Borderstan.

A Borderstan resident for more than five years, Jones is the owner and head trainer of K-9 Divine. She began training professionally in April of 2003 after attending an internship program at the Animal Behavior Center of New York. Jones is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator with the American Kennel Club and a Community Training Partner with Best Friends Animal Society. She has been in DC since 1994 when she came to study Spanish at Georgetown University, and then spent six years as a Spanish-to-English translator. Email her at rjones[AT]borderstan.com.

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