Dog begging

My dog watches me when I eat. I never feed him from my plate, but he stares and drools every time I have food, and it’s strange. Is there a way to make him stop?

Your dog’s drooling is most likely an involuntary reaction to the sight and smell of food, and his staring probably signals a hopeful anticipation that he might get a taste of whatever you’re eating for himself. Dogs have a strong memory for especially pleasurable events, like a surprise scrap from the table. Even if you’re consistent about not feeding him from your plate, that one time someone accidentally dropped a bite on the floor or secretly shared a tasty morsel can keep a dog’s hopes up and his drool flowing.

The first step in addressing this issue is to make sure the problem isn’t medical. There are illnesses that can increase your pup’s appetite or alter his ability to digest food — and it may even be possible that he simply isn’t getting enough to eat. Schedule a checkup with your vet to discuss these questions.

Once you have ruled out any medical concerns or dietary issues, you have several options for dealing with his tendency to stare and salivate while you eat.

Put a Stop to Mealtime Staring

Feed your dog at the same time you eat. Serving everyone’s meals at the same time may still get your dog drooling — but rather than watching you, he’s more likely to direct his energy toward his food. Even if you offer him just a snack and not a full meal, it may leave him satiated enough to decrease the chances that he will spend your meal staring and salivating.

Feed a portion of your pooch’s meal from food puzzles rather than bowls. A food puzzle extends the time it takes your dog to eat; it also focuses his attention and helps to channel his energy, both mental and physical. Some food puzzles encourage movement for an active eating experience — the dog uses his paws and muzzle to move the puzzle and unearth kibble hidden inside. Other puzzles are stuffed with moister contents that bind to the inside and require the dog to work at licking and chewing to get the food out. Where your dog eats his meals can help determine the type of food puzzle you use.

Give your dog something else to do while you eat. This can help to redirect your dog’s focus away from your food. Your dog may not be pushing his nose into your lap or pawing your leg, but his staring and drooling is essentially a form of begging. Teaching a specific behavior, such as lying down on a mat, can help to establish some boundaries. Once he has learned to go to his spot, your dog will know where he’s allowed to be while you’re eating (on his mat) and what he’s supposed to be doing (lying down). When he’s in his spot, give him something to do, like a stationary food puzzle or a productive chew.

Send him out of the room. If your dog’s staring and drooling are especially bothersome, he can be removed to another room during your meals. A baby gate, crate or X-pen area can be used to contain him while he is engaged with another activity, like a food puzzle or long-lasting chew.

It’s important to remember that your dog’s drooling is an involuntary response, not something he’s doing to bug you — for many dogs, a salivary response to seeing and smelling food is an innate reaction. Fortunately, keeping him in a specific area and channeling his focus toward other outlets can help decrease the allure of watching you and give him something else to drool over instead — and that should make mealtime more pleasant for everyone.

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