Why Do Dogs Beg? The Answer Will Surprise You

Wide eyes staring at you, a paw placed on your leg, and maybe a yap or two. Whether we like it or not, begging is common canine behavior.

So, why do dogs beg? Are they hungry? Do they want a tickle on their tummy? Or are they just attention seekers? Let’s find out!

Why Do Dogs Beg: Because It Works

Dogs don’t beg to be difficult or annoying, they do it because they want or need something. Dogs have learned that if they beg for something, they might just get it.

It is simple as that! But what do dogs beg for? Let’s find out.

What Do Dogs Like Begging for?

Dalmatian begging for food

Dogs beg for a wide range of reasons. They might be hungry or thirsty, or perhaps they want to go for a walk.

Your dog could be begging to get your attention, to engage you for some playtime, or because he wants to be petted.

If your dog enjoys snuggling, he might even beg to share your bed! In this section, we will have a look at some of the popular things that dogs beg for.

They Love Our Company & Want Our Attention

One of the reasons why a dog might beg is because they want our attention. Friendship, loyalty, and companionship, dogs have a lot to offer their human owners.

So, it’s no surprise that our canine pals are often described as “Man’s best friend.”

A global study on dog DNA suggests that dogs became domesticated a long time ago – around 11,000 years ago to be exact. 

During this time dogs and humans have learned to co-exist happily.

Humans have discovered that that they can fine-tune dog behavior by training their pet from a young age, using commands such as sit, lie down and stay.

Dogs have found out a few things about us too! The clever canines have worked out that they can communicate with us.

They bark, whine, wag tails, use their paws, and simply look in our direction to tell us they want or need something.

It’s fair to say, dogs and humans have struck up a close bond over the years. 

They Adore Food

Cute dog licking its birthday cake

If your dog is always begging for food and scraps it could be because he’s hungry. However, some dogs never seem to quit on the food front.

Dogs regularly tuck into their bowl of meat or biscuits, finish it all off, and then continue to beg for more. This can be tricky for owners.

On one hand you don’t want to overfeed your pup, but on the other hand you don’t want his tummy to be rumbling, or for him to go hungry, either.

And not to mention the “begging” look on your dog’s face – who can resist that?!

It can be difficult to figure out whether your dog really is hungry, or whether he’s just seeing if he can push you into giving him more.

Thankfully, dog food companies issue feeding guidelines on their packaging. This is usually a recommended amount, based on the size of your dog.

This useful information will help you to work out exactly how much food you should serve up for each sitting.

However, you do need to use your own judgement too – if your dog is particularly active, he might need a little more than the recommended amount.

When it comes to food, dogs are a bit like us humans. They enjoy eating, and sometimes go over the top (especially when they come across something particularly yummy)!

Dog food is nice enough, but present your dog with a juicy steak, a whole roast chicken or a pack of ham and he will probably think he has gone to doggy heaven.

When we feast on something really tasty, our pleasure receptors go into overdrive. The same thing happens to dogs.

However, as humans, we are able to regulate ourselves. We will eat to a point where we feel full (or maybe go just past that) and then we will consider the consequences of carrying on.

Dogs on the other hand, do not worry about that! They do not understand the concept of greed and will eat pretty much anything they set their sights on. 

They’ve Learned That Begging Works

From the big sad eyes that look longingly at your plate, to the fluffy head cocked to one side. The whiny whimper to the timid pawing, dogs are can be cute when they want something.

We love our dogs, and somehow, they have figured that if they beg long enough, we will give in.

However, while begging can seem innocent and endearing, it can also be annoying and lead to greater issues.

Little yaps can lead to loud barks and gentle nudging and pawing can move on to over-excited jumping. That once cute behavior suddenly becomes a pain in the butt.

If you’re a fed-up owner, and you’ve been asking yourself the question “why do dogs beg?”, you might be surprised at the answer – you taught your dog to do it.

“What?” We hear you cry.

“As if I’d do such a thing!”

We’re not saying you have intentionally taught your dog the art of begging, but the truth is that you probably haven’t helped.

Somewhere along the line your dog has learned that begging works.

Dogs are smart creatures, in fact studies show that our canine counterparts are on par with two-year-olds. 

They are bright enough to learn up to 250 words and signals, and can even understand simple numbers.

If they can do all of that, then they can learn how to beg too! If you want to stop your dog from begging, then read on. 

They Enjoy Receiving Rewards

Dog on a leash receiving a treat

Despite their intellect, dogs aren’t complex animals, but they do like to be rewarded. What better way to reward them than a tasty dog treat for their effort?

If a dog behaves in a certain way (shamelessly begging) and gets a reward, he will remember that, and guess what? He’ll do the same thing again to achieve the same reward.

Dogs aren’t trying to be cheeky or rude, begging for treats is based more on instinct that on choice. Your dog is simply picking up on ways they can get food and treats from you. 

Dogs Beg Because They Like to Go Out

Most dogs love the great outdoors. They get excited by the possibility of having a leash clipped to their collar and going for a nice long walk.

There are plenty of opportunities to sniff, poop and cock their leg in all sorts of interesting places – no wonder they are keen to get out there.

It’s not unusual for a dog to sit or lie down in front of a front or back door. He might wait there and start barking until he gets your attention.

Dogs remember patterns, and your canine might be more in tune with your routine than you realize.

Perhaps you are a morning person. Do you get up early every day, sit on the bottom step and pull on your trainers, then take your dog out for a walk?

If so, your pet has probably got into the habit of this happening – hence his excitement when he sees you each morning.

Aside from long walks, dogs also like to go outside for a change of pace and scenery.

They enjoy your company in the home, but they also like to eyeball next door’s cat, or watch a squirrel race up the tree.

Like us, they enjoy the feel of a cool breeze and they are prone to an afternoon siesta in a shady spot.

Dogs also like to let you know they need a comfort break. Bathroom time is very important. After all, no owner likes to discover a yellow puddle or a stinky brown gift on the floor.

Dogs are also keen in having fun. They like to chase balls, run around after butterflies, splash in puddles and bark at people passing by the gate.

Being outside allows them ample playtime and provides more stimulation. It’s no wonder why they beg to go outside! 

They Like to Come in

Dalmatian on a leash waiting in front of a green door

Your dog might love racing around the garden, but as social creatures they don’t want to be alone for too long.

If they know you are inside, they might want you to either come out and play, or let them back in so they can be with you.

If your dog jumps or scratches at the door, he’s begging to come back in. Your dog might be seeking your attention, but this could also happen if he’s fed up of being outside.

Maybe the weather has changed and he’s feeling unsettled by the heat, rain, wind, or from the threat of a brewing storm.

Or it could be simple as your dog feeling a little bit tired, longing for his bed, or a lie down on the cool kitchen tiles.

Alternatively, your dog might just want to check that you are still willing to come and help him out if his ball gets stuck in a difficult place. 

Dogs Beg Because They Love to Be Fussed Over

Dogs love to interact with people (especially their owners). Studies show that petting a dog is good for you, as well as being enjoyable for your pet. 

Dogs like your attention, they enjoy a good tummy rub and they absolutely adore a stroke or scratch behind the ears.

They might nudge your hand with their head, or try and jump on your lap – simply because they want you to fuss over them.

They Long for Playtime

One of the things dogs beg for, is playtime. Dogs love to engage humans in chasing and fetching games, but your dog should also be capable of playing alone.

Pushing a ball around with his nose and ferociously shaking a dog rope are enjoyable past-times. However, sometimes solo play just isn’t going to cut it!

If your dog is begging by pawing or yapping, he could be asking you to play with him.

Playing is necessary for your dog, it helps him to strengthen his mental, physical, and emotional health.

However, some dogs can become obsessed with games such as fetch. 

If your dog constantly brings you his ball, puts it on your lap or tries to balance it on your leg, and whines at you – he’s begging you, and is essentially saying “hey, come and play!”

They Are Thirsty

Bull Terrier drinking from a small sink

If your dog is begging for water, chances are he’s feeling thirsty. Your dog needs access to fresh drinking water, so you need to clean and fill his bowl every day.

If you’re looking for a rough guide to how much water your dog needs, you can use the following:
1 ounce (0.5kg) of fluid per pound of body weight e.g., a 20-pound (10kg) dog requires around 20 ounces (10kg) of water each day.

If your dog is without water for extended periods, his health with began to suffer.

He will beg for water and when he finds some (whether it’s from his bowl or from a puddle outside) he will drink and drink, in a bid to top himself up. 

Dogs Beg Because They Want to Share Your Bed

Dogs like to be comfortable, and you have probably provided your pet with a cozy basket, crate or dog bed.

But why would they settle for that when they could share a space on top of (or under) the duvet with you?

If your dog wakes you up at night yapping or pawing at you as you try to sleep, he might be begging to join you in bed.

There are a number of possible reasons dogs do this. Firstly, dogs have a pack instinct. When puppies are born, they are used to having brothers and sisters around them.

They snuggle up to mom in close proximity, suckling and snoozing with their siblings.

This pack mentality never really leaves, which is why wolves and wild dogs hunt and live together, sleeping close to one another for safety, shelter and warmth.

Domesticated pets still have this natural instinct, and often treat families as members of their pack.

Therefore, it’s no surprise they want to be close to you, whether it’s during the day or night.

Secondly, your dog might also beg to share your bed if he’s feeling chilly. Short-hair dogs are prone to feeling the cold during winter.

So if you have one of these breeds, you might want to ensure your dog stays warm throughout the night. 

How Can I Stop My Dog From Begging?

Now that we know why dogs beg and what they beg for, what should you do if the begging in driving you crazy?

Here are a few ideas you could try out.

Re-structure Feeding Time

If your dog always seems to be begging for food, try and feed him in a separate space. Move away from your dining area, and place his bowl in the hallway or another room.

This may discourage him from bothering you for food from your plate.

Obedience & Training

Rottweiler going through dog training

Teach your dog basic commands, such as sit, lie down and away, if you haven’t already.

An obedient dog is more likely to take notice of you, rather than rely on his impulses – like his impulse to beg.

Don’t forget to reward your dog for his good behavior. If that doesn’t work, you might want to consider contacting a professional dog trainer for some guidance.

Designate a Dog Spot

To stop your dog from begging, you sometimes need to replace negative habits with better ones.

For example - let’s say you don’t want your dog to beg for food at the table, what can you get him to do instead?

Perhaps you can designate a dog spot for him.

A simple command such as “Go to your spot” could get your dog into the habit of not begging by the table.

Instead, your dog can be firmly instructed to stay on his spot, and receive a tasty reward for doing so. 

Ignore Begging

Shih Tzu begging its owner for food

Acknowledging that your dog is begging (and giving in to him) is just reinforcing the idea that the behavior is acceptable.

You might find it difficult to ignore his persistent yaps and cries.

But by feeding him from your plate or grabbing the leash every time he whines, you are confirming what he suspects – “begging will get me whatever I want!”

Scolding your dog won’t help either – negative attention is attention none-the-less. If you can do it, try to ignore him begging.

This will tell your dog that you will not respond to his antics. It might prompt him to break the bad habit if he realizes that this behavior is not getting him closer to his goal.

Final Thoughts

So, why do dogs beg? While there are many reasons, the main reason is that they’ve learnt that it works.

To summarize, other reasons they beg is because:

  • They are hungry
  • They are thirsty
  • They enjoy receiving rewards and treats
  • They want to go outside
  • They want to come inside
  • They want to play
  • They want to share your bed
  • They want to be petted
  • They love your company

But the overriding reason is clear, dogs begs because they have learned that type of behavior works for them. Looking cute, making big puppy eyes, whining, crying, yapping, nudging, jumping and pawing are all clever techniques to get your attention and to give in.

It’s difficult not to fall for these cute dog tactics, but try to remember you’re in charge, not your dog! You set the boundaries and you are instrumental in how your dog behaves. If you want a well-behaved do that doesn’t beg, you need to teach your pet that begging simply won’t work, using the tips we’ve discussed in this article.