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Dear Bailey

Dear Bailey,

My dog loves food. We can't even have a normal meal without her begging and begging for food. How can we stop her?

Dear Kayla,

One piece of good news is that begging is a learned behavior, not natural or instinctive. In the wild, dogs wouldn't mooch or beg from their pack leader, so they shouldn't beg from the pack leader (you!) at home. Not only is begging annoying to you, but it can cause obesity, digestive problems and choking.

Dogs learn to wait. They drool in anticipation at the dinner table whenever someone gives them a scrap of food or lets them lick the plate, so you can start to fix your problem by setting some rules and beginning a new dinnertime routine.

First, no one at the dinner table can give the dog any food at all. Only one little slip-up will reward your dog, and she will keep begging. Make sure that no one talks to or makes eye contact with her during dinner; the dinner table will become much less interesting to your dog. Keep a close eye on any younger children who may not understand what you're trying to teach your dog and could drop food on the floor.

Be firm and consistent at the beginning. Initially, your dog may try even harder to get food by barking, whining or persistently hovering next to you while you are trying to eat. Teaching a new behavior may take a few days or a few weeks, but don't give in! Stick to your new rules.

Another option is to crate your dog during mealtimes. Crating will contain your dog in a certain area so that you will know where she is and what she is doing, but she won't be able to bother anyone at the table. You can put your crate out of sight of the table.

You could also feed your dog at the same time you eat so she is distracted by her own food. Treats or sterilized natural bones stuffed with peanut butter may also be great tools for distracting your dog. A long walk before dinner may also help to wear her out and decrease the begging behavior.

Thanks for writing and good luck!

Your friend,

Bailey the Beagle

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Bailey receives letters every week from kids like you, so keep checking your mailbox and Kids' Corner for a reply. Thanks for writing!

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