Animal Hospital
Quality Care
Dedicated staff
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Hours of Operation:

Monday: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Tuesday: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Wednesday: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Thursday: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Friday: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Saturday: 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Sunday: Closed

Begging in dogs and how to stop it

Certain behaviors are cured by ignoring them

I was looking down at my dog, Jasmine, wondering why she was whining. I had just opened my hero sandwich and could smell all the great aromas. Without missing a beat I took a little bit of cheese off the corner of the sandwich and let my hand fall below the level of my waist next to the chair. Jasmine greedily snarfed up the piece. "There," I thought, "that ought to keep her satisfied."

Much to my displeasure the whining commenced shortly thereafter. It then hit me. Am I insane? I started this whole mess and now I expect to stop it by just ignoring the situation? Crazy as it sounds, yes. This is one of the few times ignoring a situation is actually the right thing to do.

Animals perform behaviors for specific reasons and they tend to repeat behaviors for which are rewarded. As a matter of fact I proved my own point by rewarding Jasmine for a behavior that I didn't wish to occur in the first place.

Ignoring the behavior is definitely easier said than done. The whining continued and grew louder and softer. It went up and down in octave. Then the dancing began (the weird, doggy dance where Jasmine is able to keep her butt on the ground but somehow move all four feet at the same time). I have come to learn there is actually a term for this: extinction burst. This is where a previously reinforced behavior actually increases for a period of time before the animal eventually stops trying. It's the doggy equivalent of a temper tantrum.

What is the key to this problem? Again, ignore it. This also means that everyone that lives in the house must ignore it. The hardest part of this (for my part as the veterinarian) is making sure that everyone in the house is on the same page. What many people don't realize is that if four out of five people are doing things right but the fifth is lax the whole plan goes out the window. Also, if we hold out for longer periods of time but the dog's behavior worsens and we eventually give in, that will just reinforce the behavior we are trying to eliminate.

If there are young children who feed the dog and don't understand why it is a bad idea then it is best to separate the dog from the situation. If the dog is barking from the next room try giving the dog a toy or treat that cannot be gobbled down in one bite before you put them in there. That way they are rewarded for not barking.

On a final note, it is always darkest before the dawn. Jasmine realized (despite all her whining and dancing) that she wasn't getting anything. She then went and lay down.

Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 14 years.

Matthew Kearns, DVM