No Table Manners?

As dog trainers one of the many questions we are asked is “How do I stop my dog from begging at the table?” or worse, “How to I stop my dog from jumping up on the table?”!!!  This is both annoying for the humans, embarrassing if you have guests and not good for the dog if he’s being given food that is unsuitable for him.
The most important rule is never to feed their dog from the table at any time.  This only serves to encourage the begging and makes it almost impossible to modify the behaviour.
 
It is also not a good idea to have your dog sitting right under the table during mealtimes, especially if you have children.  Children will inevitably drop food, which your dog will be waiting eagerly for at their feet.  Instead, teach your dog to go “Into bed”, this is one of the most beneficial household exercises you could teach.  Asking your dog to go “Into Bed” is a very easy way to eliminate many unwanted behaviours.  You can also teach your dog to go into bed when they hear the doorbell instead of barking and lunging at the door.
 
When the rest of the family is busy elsewhere take some time to teach your dog to go to bed.  The bed should be positioned away from where the dining table is but in the same room.  You can do this in one of two ways, either by luring your dog, or by free shaping using a clicker.  Either way you will get the same final result, it’s your own personal choice.
 
I will explain how to teach “Into Bed” using both methods and you can decide which you are more comfortable with for your dog.
 
Luring Method (you will need a treat pouch of small chopped up treats e.g. liver, ham, chicken, kibble)

   
1. Stand beside the bed and lure your dog using the food onto the bed.  The moment he gets onto the bed give them the food.

2. Repeat this a number of times until your dog is running onto the bed.

3. Take 1 step away from the bed now, and point towards the bed, encouraging your dog to go onto the bed, the moment he gets onto the bed throw the treat to him.

4. Repeat this until he is running onto the bed when you point to it.

5. Take 2 steps away from the bed and point to the bed, encouraging him to go onto it, the moment he gets onto it throw the treat to him.

6. Once he is reliably running to the bed you can now add your cue “Into Bed” (or whatever you are comfortable with).  Now, when you point to the bed say, “Into Bed”, he should run into the bed.  Then go over to him and reward him (you can stop throwing the treat now)

 
Shaping Clicker Method (you will need a treat pouch of small chopped up treats e.g. liver, ham, chicken, kibble and a clicker!)
 
   1.Stand or sit about 2-3 feet away from the bed.  Throw a treat just beyond the bed, your dog will follow the treat, as he is coming back to you and stands on the bed click and immediately throw another treat just beyond the bed.

2. Repeat this until your dog starts to move towards the bed without you throwing the treat.  You need to “click” the moment your dog pays any attention to the bed and especially if he puts a paw on the bed, click and immediately throw a treat beyond the bed.

3. Shaping means that you break the final behaviour down into small steps and you will click/reward for each of these small steps to gradually build the final behaviour.  So, Dog looks at bed, click reward, dog looks at bed and takes a step forward, click reward, dog looks at bed and puts his paw on the bed, click reward, dog puts both paws on bed, click reward, dog puts all paws on bed, click reward, dog goes to bed and sits down, click reward.  Do not feed to the mouth when you are free shaping it is more effective if you throw the food beyond the bed.

4. Once he is reliably going into bed, you can add the cue.  As he is going towards the bed, point to it and say “Into bed”, when he gets there, click and reward.  Repeat this over and over until he is responding to the words “Into Bed”, you can now stop using the clicker and move onto the next step.
 
Once your dog responds to the cue “Into Bed” you now need to proof it to make sure he responds and stays in his bed no matter where you are in the room and what you’re doing.
  
1. You need to start slowly increasing your distance and moving around the room.  Each time pointing to the bed and asking your dog to go “Into Bed”.  At this stage you are still walking over to him and rewarding the moment he goes into bed.

2. Once you can send your dog to bed from the other end of the room you can start increasing the time he needs to stay in his bed before you reward him (duration).

3. Count the seconds inside your head, for each “Into Bed” increase your duration by 1 second before you go over and reward him.  Repeat this increasing your time until you are up to 10 seconds.

4. Now you need to start doing other things while your dog is in bed.  Take this slow at the beginning, examples are, turn on and off the kitchen tap, pick up the kettle and put it back down, open the fridge and close it.  All of these things only last a moment and each time you will go back to your dog and reward him if he stays in their bed.  If he moves just ask him to go “Into Bed” and start again.

5. As your dog becomes more confident of what is required you can increase duration and do more things while your dog is in bed.  Eventually cooking a meal, periodically during the meal, reward your dog for staying on their bed.

6. If at any stage your dog gets out of his bed without you releasing him, just ask him to go back in and start again.  You may need to reward him a little sooner the next time so that you reward before he moves.  If your dog moves out of the bed, be careful about rewarding your dog immediately for going back into bed, as he will learn that moving off his bed is a quick way to get you to reward him for going back on!  Once he can maintain some duration on the bed, make him wait on his bed and then reward him
 
Ultimately you want your dog to stay on his bed during mealtimes.  At the outset you may need to periodically reward your dog for staying in their bed during the course of the meal, depending on how your training has been going.  A stuffed Kong during mealtimes is also a good idea as this helps to occupy your dog while on his bed.  If he gets out of his bed simply ask him to go back into it.  Make sure he does.  Do not allow him to leave his bed until you are finished your meal.
 
You can get the whole family involved, to ensure the dog listens to everyone and everyone is a possible source of reward.  Get the children and adults alike asking the dog to go into bed and rewarding him for it.  It is important that everyone is on board with the “No feeding from the table” rule, otherwise all your hard work and patience will be gone out the window in no time.  Good Luck!