How To Teach Your Dog Table Manners At Meal Time

Dogs need to have social skills just as people do.  No one wants to live with a dog that behaves like a wild animal.  One of the areas where it’s important for dogs to have good manners is in their “table manners.”  Table manners refer to a couple of different things for dogs.


  • First, your dog should respect the fact that you eat your food separate from them and you don’t have to share your food.  So, no begging, whining, or pleading, thank you.  And please don’t jump up on the table!
  • Secondly, your dog needs to have some manners when he eats his own food.  No fighting, growling, or guarding food, and do not steal your brother’s dinner!


So, how do you make sure your dog learns all of this mealtime etiquette?


Respecting human meals

You can make sure that your dog respects your mealtime by teaching your dog to go to his sleeping area while you are having your meals.  It’s not hard to teach a dog to do this, especially if you use a clicker to help you train.  If your dog has a sleeping area, or a favorite spot to rest, you should CLICK the clicker when he goes there and give him a treat.  Do this repeatedly and add a command such as “Go to your place.”  You should keep working on this until your dog associates the spot with the command.  Then you can add, “Stay” to the command.  Begin by telling your dog to stay when you are just a couple of feet away, then gradually back farther away.  Remember to click and treat when you give the command and your dog complies.  Eventually you can work your way to giving the Stay command and leaving the room.  So, when you have your meals, you will send your dog to his place and tell him to stay there.  No begging, whining, or crying while you are at the table.  Be sure to reward your dog after you have finished your meal and give him lots of praise for staying in his place.


Good manners during dog meals

Your dog also needs to have good manners during his own meals.  This is important whether you have other dogs or you just want your dog to behave well toward you.  Even the sweetest dogs can get greedy at mealtime.  If you have more than one dog it’s often a good idea to feed your dogs separately so there won’t be any temptation for your dogs to fight or growl at each other.  Feeding dogs separately, in crates or in different rooms, also removes the temptation for one dog to eat both meals.  This often happens if one of the dogs is more dominant.  You can end up with a dog that’s overweight and another dog that’s always hungry because he’s not getting all of his food.  If you just have one dog and he’s behaving badly toward you, you can go a long way toward solving the problem by simply removing his dish.  That’s right.  Take away his bowl and feed him by hand.  If your dog is growling, being greedy, or guarding food from you, take away his bowl and feed him by hand.  This method does wonders for reminding your dog that you are the one who gives him his food and associates mealtime as a positive experience and he should be a little nicer to you.  It does make meal times take a little longer but you only need to feed by hand for a few days, then you can give your dog his bowl back and see if his behavior has improved.  Start walking close to your dog during meals and casually dropping in some yummy things to eat like a piece of steak or some nice chicken.  Let him get used to the idea that you’re not taking his food away — you’re giving him good stuff.  But, if you do need to take the bowl away from your dog, he should allow you to do so.  If your dog still has problems with you around his food, remove the dish again and go back to hand feeding for a longer period of time.


As you can see, meal times can cause dogs to go a little wonky.  In the wild they are predators so they do sometimes forget their manners.  With a little work they should remember their good behaviour.





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