Stop Dog From Begging & Being Disobedient on Walks

by Vickki
(Milton Keynes, UK.)

Hello,

I need help to stop a dog from begging for food and being disobedient on walks.

I have a 20 month old cross-breed bitch called Beabea. I have had her since she was 1 year old.

She was a little stray, born on the streets in Greece, I fell in love with her on holiday there and couldn’t leave her to an uncertain future and brought her back to the UK in April this year for a better life.

She is a fantastic dog, she’s very affectionate, gentle natured, doesn’t wreck the house, is great around children and she is just downright adorable, a lovely girl all in all.

But I have two problems that I can’t seem to solve..

Scavenging / Begging

Now I know this is inherent, due to the fact that she was born stray and scavenging for food and begging at tourists was the only way she could survive, but now she is domesticated, she is a total nightmare with this habit still!

Since she arrived and we started feeding her, I have divided her daily food in to three smaller meals, spaced throughout the day, so that she eats around the same time as us and knows that she will always get fed regularly as I imagine there were some days she went without food back in Crete. I have also tried feeding her before we ate (I know she should eat after us, to show that we are pack leaders, but I thought it would mean that she’d be full up and not want to bother us!) But she will eat her food and then hang around and beg for more food and won’t go to her bed.

We never feed her scraps when she is begging and if there is occasionally any suitable leftovers, I would give it to her with her next meal. I don’t like shutting her out of the room as we eat, as I feel this doesn’t teach her anything and she scratches at the door anyway.

She also has scavenged in bushes for food rubbish or has found rotting food on the pavements and eaten it. Any suggestions please? Or am I just stuck, because of her sad background?

Recall / Obedience on walks
Again, this is probably harping back to her days on the streets, she was used to being free. But she needs improvement on the lead and on her walks. I have managed to calm down her straining on the lead significantly when normally walking, by stopping when she pulls and not walking again until she slackens the lead.

But usually on walks she is so excited to be out and loves the sights and the smells that she becomes completely disobedient and ignores any commands. If she sees a child she goes mental (in a nice way!) she starts yanking on the lead, jumping about and trying to pull me towards the children, as the local kids all know her and she flops on her back for a belly rub when they come over to her!

She also pulls madly if a person walks by and then tries to jump up at them (Not in an aggressive way) which is highly embarrassing, she will also try and chase cats, squirrels and other dogs (To play with them) and for all of these things she is on the lead, because if let her off the lead, she ignores me and won’t come back and would possibly run in to a main road!!

I want her to be able to go off of her lead, so that she can play with the local dogs and get more exercise, but she ignores me when I recall her. I have tried a dog whistle/treat and a long line with her in the garden and she comes back to the dog whistle, but when I tried it on her walks, she ignores the whistle as the sights and smells are too distracting.

Any help on these two problems would be gratefully received. Thank you in advance. It’s been a long time since I have had a young dog (I lost my 17 year old Border Collie last year) so I am a little rusty!

Vickki. x

Our Response

Hi Vickki, sorry to hear of your concerns and that you lost your 17 year old Border Collie – I can tell you are a very loving owner and this will help with the dog obedience training process. I will do my best to offer you some advice and help below.

I can tell that you have had a good look at our site as you have picked up some useful tips on pack behavior and how dogs act and behave. Your dog has had a bad start in life so it’s great that these are the only issues that you are having. Below are some of the reasons why dogs start begging and why your dog is running off and scavenging.

1. Begging is a learned behavior- some dogs do it as they have been used to getting the treat – it might have started with an owner giving their dog a treat – this will then lead to the dog repeating the behavior as they know they will get a treat that reinforces their begging. Of course in your dog’s case she had no choice – if she didn’t get food she would starve – it’s that simple. Consequently, this behavior has stuck and is continuing.

2. It would be a good idea to start feeding your dog at the same time as you and the family eat as this will focus his attention on his food.
3. When out walking a dog will often walk with the nose stuck to the ground – this is th equivalent of a mouth – basically smelling anything that might be of interest. There are three methods that we will focus on – including the ‘Leave It’, ‘The Come Command’ and ‘Focused Attention Training’.


The Leave It Command


This is ideal for your problem of a dog that is begging and scavenging. Below is a quick lesson.

For this you will need an ordinary treat and a really special treat (one of her favorites).

1. Find somewhere really quiet so that you are not disturbed. Sit down in front of your dog and have the boring treat in one hand and the really special ‘Bonus’ treat in the other.


2. Hold out the boring treat in the right hand and as soon as your dog moves to eat the treat close your hand.


3. If your dog reacts by moving away then this is really good. Give her lots of praise and the really special treat. If she keeps hanging around the boring treat (the ‘Leave it Treat’) just keep your hand closed she will soon lose interest.


4. Now practice this again straight away. If your dog does not move towards the ‘Leave it Treat’ straight away give her lots of praise and the Bonus treat.


5. Now it’s time to attach a verbal cue to the command – when you go to extend your hand – say ‘Leave it’ and keep your hand closed. By saying ‘Leave it’ as you extend the hand with the boring ‘Leave it Treat’ our dog will start to associate leaving that treat as she will get the bonus special treat. Now practice regularly as before long you will be able to attach the command to other scenarios – for example when your dog is about to scavenge for food.


Focused Attention Dog Obedience Training


This is a great training exercise specifically for dogs that have been distracted when out for a walk. You have followed the ‘Come’ training correctly but we will still provide a link below for further advice.

1. Have a treat in one hand and call your dog’s name.

2. Move to one side and as soon as your dog moves with you give lots of praise. Don’t let your dog see the treat as she needs to focus on you.

3. Hold the treat at your eye level and at your dog’s eye level and give the treat.

4. Practice this a few times in one sitting. So…

1. Call name
2. Move
3. Praise
4. Reward


Getting your Dog to Come Back and Not Get Distracted


Ok this is a very common problem – you take your dog out for a walk and she becomes distracted either with other dogs, scents, people basically anything that is more interesting – but what do you do?

Well you have tried the ‘Come’ command and this isn’t working. The problem with a dog that runs away after more interesting things is that the whole problem is self perpeptuating. Basically your dog is rewarded everytime she runs off – whether this is with scavenged food or the prospect of meeting other dogs – each time it happens the reward reinforces the behavior.

Purchase a long leash that can allow your dog a certain level of freedom – but you want your dog to know that you are in charge and it is you that will allow her to access the other more interesting stuff like other dogs, people etc.

Take your dog for a walk with the long leash attached – pick somewhere quiet as you will need to practice. Let your dog walk around on the leash having a smell etc. When your dog has got to the end of the leash wait until she looks at you and call her to you. Don’t use the old command that didn’t work as your dog will have learned to ignore it. Pick a new command – call her and when she comes and she will – give her lots and lots of praise and a really nice treat. Practice this daily – for 10-20 minutes each session. Don’t make the sessions too long as she will get bored.

Now you need to ask a close friend who had dogs to ‘accidently’ encounter you when out on your practice session. The dogs need to be close so that your dog can see them but not too close so they can play. Your friend’s dogs need to be on a leash too. Call your dog – she will come but it may take some time – wait she will come and when she does give her lots of praise and a treat. Now let her access the dogs again and repeat the exercise. Keep practicing daily and don’t let her off the leash until the behavior and new command has been reinforced.