It never fails.

You sit down to eat and suddenly your dog is by your side, begging for a bite of your meal. His sad eyes and whimpers may be convincing, but how do you know if your dog is truly hungry or just trying to score a treat?

It may seem like your dog is hungry, but if he’s getting regular meals, he likely isn’t starving. He just wants to eat, much like humans eat when we’re not really hungry. But just because he wants those table scraps doesn’t mean he should have them. That’s where portion control comes in.

How Much to Feed Them

Experts say to feed your dogs twice a day, about 8 to 12 hours apart. The amount of food they need depends on lots of things, including their:

  • Size
  • Age
  • Activity level
  • Breed
  • General health

Your vet can calculate the number of calories your dog needs each day. Then divide that in half, check the calories on your dog’s food, and measure out a proper portion for breakfast and dinner.

If you give treats, use the smallest pieces possible. Treats should make up less than 10% of your dog’s diet. Take note of the number of calories in his treats and subtract them from his daily total when serving his meals.

When My Dog Eats Too Much

Overfeeding your dog can lead to obesity and other health issues. About half of all dogs are overweight or obese.

Dogs that carry a few extra pounds may get the same health problems as overweight people, like heart disease or diabetes. All that extra weight can strain your dog’s joints, too. That can cause pain and may lead to arthritis. All of the above may mean a shorter life for your dog.

How to Curb Begging

If your dog begs for table scraps, here are a few things you can try to change the behavior:

Feed your dog before you feed yourself. That way you can be sure he’s not hungry, and he’ll feel more satisfied as you dig in to your meal.

Ignore it. Don’t give in when your dog begs. Ever. Make sure everyone who lives with the dog does the same. Don’t let guests give into begging, either.

Restrict access. You can keep your dog out of the kitchen or dining room while you’re cooking or eating. Try putting a baby gate in the doorway. If they're crate-trained, put them in their crate.

Use training commands. Tell your dog to lie down or go to bed if he begs at the table. This trains your dog to wait quietly nearby. Your friend gets to be around you, but they don't get to pester you.

Reward him for not begging. If he makes it through your meal without pawing at you or your plate, give him a treat.

The key with any strategy is to be consistent. It may take time, but your pup will eventually stop begging when he understands it won’t get him what he wants.

WebMD Veterinary Reference

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