Should You Give Your Dog Human Food? Won't He Learn To Beg?

"I don't give my dog human food because I don't want him to learn to beg".

I hear this quite a bit. Dogs do not learn to beg because you give them human food. 

It’s the behaviour he’s learned works to get the food. It’s not the food itself.

Begging, as most people describe it to me is - sitting near the table waiting for food while they are eating or on the couch.

Our food smells great. Wouldn't you gravitate to an enticing scent? 

Begging is a learned behaviour, like any other.  There are 3 components to learning: antecedent, behaviour and consequence.

1) The smell of food (antecedent)

2) The dog staring at you, whining, pawing or doing another demanding behaviour including cute head tilts and sad puppy eyes. (behaviour)

3) Being given food (consequence)

The act of begging for food is born. If you feed sometimes and not others, it will get stronger not disappear.

If you don’t want unwanted behaviour to develop in the first place, change the antecedent.

 

Both my dogs were taught to lie down on their beds (behaviour)  to wait quietly and patiently for reinforcement in the form of whatever human food I was preparing at the time (consequence).

Until that behaviour was learned or when I was unable to train, I managed the situation by having the in a different room, crated or tethered.  Human food was not given to them unless they were on their mats. Unwanted behaviour never worked to get food.

If you never want your dog to have human food, for different reasons, that’s fine, but understand that the act of giving your dog human food does not create a dog who begs. 

Whatever behaviour is reinforced is the behaviour your dog will give you. If you toss food to him when he’s barking, or giving sad puppy eyes, or pawing you, that behaviour will continue to happen because it works to get the food. The same is true whether you give him kibble or human food.

Human food itself does not cause begging.