Dogs quickly learn that people food is good food. We add spices and salt, and it is often high in sugar. If your dog passively stares at you while you eat or even tries to take food from your plate, but is not being aggressive or mouthing you, these tips may help you. If your dog is getting aggressive, using his mouth on you, or becoming extremely demanding, please consult a professional trainer.
Begin by developing a strong down/stay on a mat where you can see your dog while you eat. Practice the down stay without any distractions initially (not during meals). You can offer your dog a favorite toy while he is practicing down/stay. Begin with a very short down/stay, and slowly increase the time that the dog must stay until it reaches the length of time that corresponds to the length of time it would take you to eat. Periodically, praise your dog while he is in the down/stay. Slowly increase the time between praising your dog. While you are developing the down/stay, crate the dog in another room during meals so that he can’t beg for food while you eat.
Once your dog has developed a strong down/stay without distractions, begin to ask for the down/stay and provide distractions, such as cleaning or other movement near your dog. Initially, you may have to tether the dog during distractions. You should be able to see your dog while he is in the down/stay, and NEVER leave your dog unattended while he is tethered. If he gets up, calmly ask for the down/stay and begin again. You may have to decrease the time that he is in the down/stay now that there are distractions, and then build the time back up again.
Once your dog has developed a strong down/stay with distractions, it is time to ask him to down/stay on his mat during a pretend meal. Do the same routine as if you were actually going to eat, but only have a snack. He may have to be redirected to down/stay on his mat at times. Once he down/stays during your snack for the amount of time that it would take to eat a full meal with 90% accuracy, he is ready for a full meal. Before you sit down to eat, you can offer him a yummy chew bone or other treat that will occupy his attention during the meal.
The last step is removing the tether. Before moving from one step to the next, your dog should down/stay appropriately for the step that you are working on 90% of the time. Do not rush! Training takes time!
Once you sit down to eat, do NOT feed your dog! I highly recommend never feeding your dog from your plate or from the table again. If you want to give him scraps, put the scraps away, and wait for 15 to 30 minutes after you eat to give him the scraps.
Enjoy your meal with a polite dog!