When your sweet cocker spaniel stares up at you, begging with those loving eyes, it's hard to deny her anything. But if you're not careful, giving in to begging will soon have your intelligent little dog opening cupboards and stealing from the trash. Stop the habit before it gets out of hand.
Feed your cocker spaniel with consistency: only in her dish, always set in a certain spot and at the same times each day. The recommended timing is different depending on which expert you're talking to. Some say feeding the dog before you eat, just before you sit down to your dinner, will keep her occupied as well as fill her belly, minimizing her interest in your food. Others, like Liz Palika in her book on cocker spaniels say feeding your dog after you eat is the preferred time, and reinforces you as the alpha in the household. Before or after you eat, all agree that feeding your cocker spaniel at the same times each day is key in discouraging begging.
Distract your cocker spaniel with a toy or a treat of her own just before you sit down to the table or if you're eating a snack. Giving your dog a biscuit or a toy that can be stuffed with treats that she has to work at will take her attention away from what you're eating. Put her in another room when you do this to keep her attention -- and her soulful gaze -- off of you.
Ignore your cocker spaniel's pleas for a morsel, if you have the strength. Don't look at her or talk to her, even to tell her "no." When you talk to your dog, no matter what you're saying, she will be getting a reaction from you that will reinforce her behavior, teaching her that begging will lead to what she wants: attention and possibly a taste from your plate.
Enroll your dog and yourself in training classes. Cocker spaniels are smart dogs who can easily be taught essential commands like down, sit and stay. Once you and your cocker are both accomplished in the basics, controlling her begging behavior while you're eating will be easier.
- "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats": Editors of Prevention Magazine Health Books
- Vet Info: Reducing Dog Behavior Problems Through Proper Diet
- Iams: Teach Your Dog Not To Beg
- "Cocker Spaniel: Your Happy Healthy Pet": Liz Palika
- American Kennel Club: Cocker Spaniel
- Stick to your guns and don't give in. Your cocker spaniel's behavior may worsen before she catches on and realizes that begging will get her nowhere. It can be difficult, but if you refrain from giving in, your cocker will eventually realize that begging doesn't work.
- Most vets discourage feeding pets table scraps, but most pet parents ignore that advice. If you just can't see clear to throw out small amounts of leftovers, at least feed them to your dog after the meal is finished and have her eat them from her dish instead of feeding her from the table or counter. This will reinforce to her that she is to eat food only from her dish.
- Everyone in the family needs to be on board with training your cocker spaniel not to beg. If just one person breaks the rules, it undermines all the positive progress you might make.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.