Q. We have an 18-month-old chocolate Labrador and he is quite well behaved, but has one significant flaw. He likes food too much and when we are sitting at the table having dinner, he is there watching us, dribbling and trying to get the food. If we are not careful, he will steal from our plates. We don't know what to do. Help! Margaret, London
A. I have faced this problem myself and it's so easy to give in to those big, adorable eyes. Your heart melts and you think "just a little tit-bit won't hurt", but it does! Human food tastes much better than dog food – so the problem just gets worse and worse. It can even be dangerous for the animal, especially the stealing aspect of it. Once a little pug that was in my care got up on the table after we had eaten, and when I came back into the room I found her head stuck in the trifle! Luckily she didn't get ill.
You need to get all the members of the family to stop feeding the dog when you are at the table otherwise the behaviour won't stop and could escalate into barking, jumping and even grabbing your plate while you are eating! To start to break the habit put him in another room with his dinner while you eat yours.
Alternatively, put his bed near the dining table, but not right next to it, and give him a large bone to chew during your dinner. Breaking any habit takes time. Dogs can be very persistent – and if you give in it's highly unlikely that you will cure the problem. As for the stealing, you need to be vigilant. Do not put him in a situation where he can steal, and don't allow him in the kitchen and around the table when you are serving food. Be patient and good luck!
Remember that if an animal shows signs of distress or discomfort an early visit to the vet is always recommended