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Begging

How to Stop a Chihuahua From Begging

Overview

Dogs are skilled at many things, but when you think about which one skill set affects their humans the most, the one thing that can make you feel like you are stuck in an endless cycle, helpless to break free, many will agree that it has to be the element of a dog begging. 

When a Chihuahua begs for food, it’s an awfully tricky thing: The very act of begging (jumping at you or the food, whining, incessantly looking at you with sad eyes, and for certain, refusing to let it go and move onto something else, can leave you wondering how to possibly stop this sort of behavior. After all, if a Chihuahua is exceedingly stubborn and the only way to get him to stop is to give him what he wants, what other choice is there? 

You may be surprised to know that begging behavior coming from your dog is not just stressful for you, it can be very stressful for your Chihuahua as well. The energy exerted during these episodes, the high level of alertness that is involved and the overwhelming sense of urgency can all culminate into frenzied, taxing episodes that all but wipe a dog out.

Dogs are much happier when this is all removed and they can focus on healthy activities that are beneficial such as playing with approved toys or relaxing as part of the family unit. In addition, the very act of giving into begging behavior reduces your role as leader. 
It puts the dog in charge and this can have drastic consequences that affects everything from how well your Chihuahua listens to commands, to how well he stays beside you during his daily walks for exercise and even marking behavior. In essence, giving into a Chihuahua’s begging is akin to following the dog’s requests which can result a reversal of leadership/follower roles. Finally, since eating a balanced diet is a huge part of keeping a dog healthy, constant begging that results in table scraps or other unplanned foods can affect a dog’s overall health. 
Chihuahua begging for cheese
'Begging for Cheese'
Gizmo Meeko, at 1 year, 9 months
Photo courtesy of The Trezza/Vadjinia Family
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Why Dogs Beg - In order to stop a particular behavior that a dog displays, it is important to understand why it is done in the first place. A dog will beg for one of two reasons:

1. He is unsure of the outcome. He urgently wants something (most often a certain food). It has not been established if he is allowed to have this, so the Chihuahua will make every attempt to obtain it. To dogs, something is a ‘yes’ if it is not overly clear that it is a ‘no’. 

2. He knows the outcome is favorable. He has learned that if he begs with enough enthusiasm and for a long enough duration, he will eventually receive the object that he desires. Dogs do not have a sense of time as we have; 1 minute or 30 minutes of begging is essentially the same to a Chihuahua. A dog will not stop himself from begging if he knows the end result will be favorable, no matter how long it takes for that to happen. 

The Physiological Factor - While your Chihuahua begs to satisfy a want, you as his owner comply to gain something as well. When you hand over that piece of food you feel as if you are showing love. After all, when we love somebody (or something), we want to make them happy, even if it is temporary and even if it may not be the wisest choice in the long run. Begging is not easy to watch or to hear (it can be emotionally trying), and surrendering to it not only immediately calms your Chihuahua down, it makes you feel that you are a good owner by keeping him happy. It’s only later that you realize things are getting out of hand. In some cases, a Chihuahua may work so hard to get something, (barking, whining, jumping) and makes such a commotion, that conceding to the dog may feel as if you’ve finally won something yourself. 

How to Stop Begging Behavior - Knowing that the two reasons a Chihuahua will beg is that he either is not sure of the outcome or he knows he will eventually win you over, the training to stop this is rather straight forward: You must train your Chihuahua to learn that begging will not bring desired results. Of course, this is easier said than done. It takes a tremendous amount of willpower and it also takes a bit of time. 

Here are the steps to follow:

1. Decide which foods your Chihuahua is allowed and not allowed to eat. While main meals are important, snacks and treats play a huge role in health as well. In fact, for some dogs that constantly beg for treats or their owner’s food, they may be given so much that they eat less at meal time, essentially taking in more calories due to snacks than meals. 
Reassess your Chihuahua’s snacks. Keep a good supply of healthy treats that he really enjoys. Have special ones reserved for rewarding good behavior (following commands, housebreaking, etc.) and others as fillers between mealtimes. 

If there are certain foods that your Chihuahua begs for that you feel are okay for him to eat, it is best to work these into his meals. For example, if he always begs for some blueberries or a pear slices any time you are having these or if your Chi barks to be given some peanut butter or potatoes, add a bit of that food into his kibble. Just be sure it is a food that is safe for canine consumption and is relatively healthy (not overly fatty and especially not salty). This way, you can stay strong while training to stop begging, since you’ll know that he’s receiving the food at meal times.
2. Everyone in the house must be in agreement. All people in the household must be on the same page that training to stop begging is about to begin. Dogs are very astute and if there is a weak link in the chain, your Chihuahua will find it. If you and three others stick to the plan, but that forth person can’t stand it and slips the Chihuahua food, the entire training effort will be done in vain. 

3. Do not acknowledge the begging. In essence, the goal is to not offer whatever it is that the dog is begging for. Yet, it goes beyond this as well; for this to work, it is best if you do not speak or even make eye contact. This is easier said than done unless you are fully prepared for this and have a plan for exactly what you will do instead.

Dogs are marvelous at being able to wear down owners. When they beg, they seemingly have endless energy. They’ll go and go, seeming to never stop. However, dogs will stop. It all comes down to outlasting them. There are methods to make this stage go faster (see ahead) however the basis of the training must remain: No matter what, no matter how hyper a Chihuahua is, no matter how cute your Chihuahua looks or how bad you feel for him, you not only will not give in, you will not even acknowledge that he wants something that you know you shouldn't give to him.

A dog must be taught that begging puts a stop to everything and that all efforts are in vain. Since dogs have a pack mentality and being included in his pack (the family) is the cornerstone to his existence, if a dog is completely ignored, this tells him that his behavior is a serious matter. This means no speaking (resist the urge to say, ‘No, you can’t have this’ or ‘be quiet’). And do you best to pretend that he is invisible, which means no eye contact. An additional benefit to no eye contact is that you will remove yourself from the guilt factor (via facial expressions and sad faces) that dogs often use to get what they want. 
Even so, it is normal to feel a bit guilty during this time. Do know that if you are taking excellent care of your puppy or dog, in the long run putting a stop to compulsive begging behavior will serve both of you well and is for the best. There are lots of other ways to show your dog that you care other than to concede to begging and plenty of methods other than offering food bits to have a strong bond with him.  
"Woof, rufff, rrrr...grrr... UMPHF!"

Translation:

"Tweets for treats...? ... or share for... ahh, a pear ??? Well, you get the gist... Show some love & share this page before you read on!"
cute Chihuahua puppy, female
Miss Buttercup, at 12 weeks old
Photo courtesy of Laura
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4. Distract. You can distract with toys or an activity, however this can be a bit tricky and something to be very aware of. If you distract with pats, taking your Chi out for a walk or giving a toy, you do not want this to be seen as offering a reward of some sort for barking or other begging behaviors that the dog displayed. Therefore, the goal will be to distract in a particular way. In regard to toys, pre-plan for this by having a few select, new toys ready in a bin that has been placed up high enough that your Chihuahua is not aware of them. When your Chihuahua starts to beg, completely ignore him. When there is a break in the barking or whining (even if it is just for your dog to catch his breath) use that exact moment to hand him an interesting toy. Do time this right so that he does not think he is being rewarded. This may throw him off track… or he may ignore it, however it’s worth a try. 

You may also distract by bringing him out for a walk, initiating a game of fetch or encouraging another sort of activity. But again, do this during a break in the begging behavior (the point when your Chihuahua is worn out a bit and takes pause), so that he does not misinterpret this as a reward. 

In many instances, a Chihuahua will only beg for food when it is right there in front of him; for example, when you are preparing a meal, eating a snack or looking in the fridge. As you transition from that action into the next thing that you will be doing, you can encourage your Chihuahua to pay attention to the new element. For example, if you were eating dinner and your Chihuahua was begging for something off of your plate, do not give in. But, when you move on to wash your plate, toss some bubbles to him (not enough to ingest, just a bit in a teasing way for him to nose at with curiosity). If he was begging while you had the fridge open, place an ice cube on the floor for him to chase around. Most begging stops once the object of longing is out of view. 

5. Reward good behavior. As time goes by, periods of a break from barking and whining will become longer. For example, a Chihuahua may bark like mad when you’re at the dinner table, re-think his actions by laying down for a bit and then come back with full force to beg some more. During that window of good behavior, strongly reward it. Use words of praise, pats of affection and reward via a toy, if you have not already used one for distraction. It is suggested to separate the dog’s toys and keep a few special ones in a bin strictly to be given as reward for good behavior. 

With an enthusiastic tone of voice, let your Chihuahua learn that his behavior is appreciated. Dogs aim to please, so by teaching your Chihuahua that he’s doing great, he will be more apt to repeat whatever action brought him attention and approval. If a dog sees that remain calm while the family eats is a sure bet to getting tons of praise, playtime afterward and feeling like a ‘star’, he will be much more prone to repeating the actions that gave him that. 

6. Have patience. It can take anywhere from a week to a month for a dog to stop begging and he may strengthen his efforts before he finally accepts the new way of life. However, it does have an end. You just need to have enough willpower to reach it. When a dog learns that his efforts do not bring about any changes, he will not put energy into that effort any longer. Canines can be counted on in this way; they will follow the path of least resistance and take actions only if doing so brings about a favorable outcome. The secret is to stick with the training long enough for the Chihuahua to figure it out. A dog will learn that begging brings about nothing at all (not speaking to him, no playing, not even eye contact) and that not begging means praise and reward (toys, attention, enjoyable actions such as walks, games of fetch, etc.). 

7. Step things up a notch in other areas. Since it will be typical for an owner to feel bad for ignoring their dog; it can help to offer fun and attention in other ways that doesn't involve food. And you may find that spending more time with your Chi creates a better bond; there's lots of things you can do:
Pamper your Chi with a nice bath and grooming session (if he enjoys that), take your Chihuahua out to explore a new route and have a picnic along the way, bring him along to a pet supply store to pick out a new toy, set aside 20 minutes per day to work together as a team on a new command or any other activity that you feel will be enjoyed by both of you. When you have faith that you’re doing an outstanding job as a caring owner, it will be easier to stay strong when your dog begs. 

Note: Once your Chihuahua has learned to stop begging, you’ll notice that he’s happier and has a more easygoing vibe that can really set the tone for the entire household. The pressure and stress of working so hard to be given something will be gone. In addition, dogs do best when they have a clear understanding of the pecking order (you as the Alpha leader and him as the Beta); this makes sense to a dog and he can enjoy being part of the family without the pressure of a tug-of-war over hierarchy. 
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