How to Stop My Dog Stealing From the Table

The one thing that really makes meal time stressful is trying to keep my dog from begging and stealing food from the table.  I know that other people with dogs don’t have this problem, but I do.  What can I do?

There is one important thing that we must understand about dogs stealing food from the table.  They don’t place an implicit ownership on food.  If they see food left unattended, it is just like their finding a dead animal in the wild.  If they are hungry, they will naturally eat the food.  So, as humans, we need to understand that if we leave food unattended with our dog nearby, it might be gone when we return.

With this said, we must also understand when it is not acceptable for our dog to steal from the table.  If we are providing our dog leadership while building a bond, establishing trust, and delivering companionship; our dog will see us as their caregiver and leader.  From our dog’s perspective, it is not acceptable to take food from the leader until allowed.

When our dog attempts to take food from the table while we are at the table, he is breaking that natural rule and we must, as the leader, let him know that he is doing something wrong.  In order to do this, we must set the scene to allow him to either try and steal the food or respect us and not encroach.  Here is a little exercise for you:
  • Establish a perimeter around your table where you don’t want your dog to cross when you are eating.
  • Make sure you have toys, goodies, or even your dog’s dinner placed outside the perimeter.
  • Place a leash on your dog.
  • Create one or two plates of “smelly food” like cheese, cold cuts, hamburger meat, etc. and place them on the table.
  • Everyone with a plate needs to sit down at the table and keep their chairs placed far enough away from the table so that they can easily stand up.  Everyone must sit “side saddled” (like our Mom always scolded us for doing).
  • Make “yummy sounds” and nibble on the food while you watch your dog out of the corner of your eye.
  • If your dog begins to approach your boundary, quickly stand up, face your dog, and loudly say “No” in an authoritative, guttural tone.  If you need to, gently pick up the leash and guide him away to his toys, goodies, or dinner.
  • Praise your dog with a high pitched “Good boy” for doing the right thing.  (You might have had to show him what was right, but that is OK.  He is learning.)
  • Return to your chair, always facing your dog.
  • Slowly sit down and repeat the process until your dog looses interest and does not approach you.
  • Repeat this every day until you no longer have to actively keep him away from the table.

Having to deal with a “nosy dog” while at the table can be a big pain for your family and friends.  Practice this exercise regularly and we are sure you will soon have an enjoyable time at the dinner table.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at The Best Dog Trainers in South Florida.


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