How to Get a Dog to Stop Eating Food on the Coffee Table

by Judith Willson
Train your dog to ignore the coffee table buffet.

Train your dog to ignore the coffee table buffet.

Dana Neely/Photodisc/Getty Images

A coffee table is the perfect height to be a doggy dining table, something your pooch doubtless noticed a long time ago. Cookies, sandwiches and snacks are in danger, especially if you are careless enough to turn your back for a second. Training might work though, especially if he’s still young.

Step 1

Inform all your family of the ground rules and training plan. Apart from not letting the dog take snacks from the coffee table, this also should include not giving him bits of whatever you are eating when you are eating. Consistency is paramount -- if one person lets the dog take food or gives him food when she’s eating and another does not, he won’t learn to ignore all those tempting treats laid out at dog level.

Step 2

Start training as soon as possible, preferably shortly after adopting the dog. If you have allowed him to get into the habit of snatching snacks from the coffee table, it is going to be very difficult to make him stop.

Step 3

Change his feeding time (or times) gradually over the course of a week or so until one is shortly before you usually spread out your own food or snacks on the coffee table. For example, if you like to have a bowl of crackers to pick at throughout the evening, feed him at about 6 or 7 pm. If you have your breakfast there, feed him his first meal first thing in the morning. A hungry dog is more likely to give into temptation than one who is perfectly satisfied already.

Step 4

Select reasonably healthy (for a dog) foods that, however, he doesn’t actually like much to use while you are training him. For example, if he doesn’t really like raw vegetables, prepare a selection of crudités to place on the coffee table while he is in the room. You always can dig into your preferred snacks later. Avoid anything that is dangerous to dogs, such as chocolate, or anything that is irresistible, such as chicken nuggets.

Step 5

Ensure that somebody is always in the room at the same time as the dog and the food. If you need to leave, take the food with you or call your dog into another room and close the door.

Step 6

Watch him closely and say “no” firmly if you see him making a move towards the coffee table. Ask him to sit or lie down if necessary.

Step 7

Take him into another room to give him treats, a short while after you have finished your own. If you are training him to do something else, such as a trick, this is a good opportunity to practice. Otherwise, just ask him to do something simple, such as sit down. Never give him anything in the living room. This gets him to associate treats with activities in a different room.

Step 8

Continue the training once he has started ignoring the not-very-appealing snacks completely, gradually using more tempting foods.

Items You Will Need

  • Healthy human and dog treats
  • Anti-chew spray

Tips

  • Avoid leaving him alone with the food, even if he seems to be perfectly trained. He might well take the opportunity to grab something while you are elsewhere -- dogs are not stupid -- and this undermines the training you have already done. If there is a way you can watch him from another room, easy enough with a couple of laptops, it might be possible to extend the training.
  • One trick, as recommended by Dog Training Central, is to spray the snacks with a bitter anti-chew spray. If he does give in to temptation, he’ll get an unpleasant (but harmless) surprise. So will your guests, though, if you forget to tell them. Make sure everybody apart from the dog knows these snacks are not to be eaten.
  • Stop him before he gets to the food, but don’t shout at your dog if he manages to snatch something. This tends to be counterproductive as many dogs enjoy the attention. Instead, remove the remaining food and ignore him for a short time.

Warning

  • Under no circumstances leave him alone with potentially toxic foods, no matter how extensive his training. Human treats that are dangerous to dogs include chocolate, avocadoes, grapes and raisins, macadamia nuts, highly salted snacks and onions, according to the ASPCA and the Humane Society. Coffee and alcohol also are hazardous.

Photo Credits

  • Dana Neely/Photodisc/Getty Images

About the Author

Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

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