I’d bet that we’ve all had the experience at one time or another of going to a friend’s house with a pet that’s just a little too comfortable around the kitchen. I’ve been in homes where cats reign free across countertops and homes where dogs quite literally rip food off of the plates of guests.
Both situations are not only uncomfortable for the guests, but can also be a serious wake-up call for pet parents that they actually might want to invest some time and energy into training their (once thought to be) perfect pets.
The good news is, if you’re a pet parent, you can easily sway this negative behavior from your cat or dog. You just have to put a little time and effort into the situation. It’s best to never let your pet interact with the table from the day you bring them home. Remember, consistency is key! You don’t have to spend a ton of money on a training school to get the results you’re after, but if you want to, that’s okay, too.
Whether you adopted a pet who's still stuck in their old ways or are training a new pet for the first time, here are some of the best and easiest ways to implement table manners training.
How to teach your pet table manners
Occupy or feed them as you’re eating
If you’re crate-training your pet, you can put their favorite toy or a treat in their crate and keep them there for the duration of the meal. This will teach them that they are not part of the human table activity going on during meal time.
You can even feed your dog or cat during this time at their regular food station. This helps to reinforce the idea that they are not (and never will be!) forgotten at meal time.
Don’t acknowledge them when they beg
Ignoring your pet as they beg for food is just like it sounds. Don’t reward them with a taste of what you’re having and don’t berate them or yell at them either. Simply ignore their presence altogether. In general, punishment is not a good idea when it comes to dealing with food, since food is a natural desire for your dog and they won’t fully comprehend what they did “wrong.”
Never leave food unsupervised
Even pets who have been trained for years can forget everything they’ve learned if tempting, delicious food is left unsupervised for too long. Make sure to never leave food out for long periods of time so dogs and cats (and other critters and pests!) won’t get into it, causing a bigger mess to clean up later.
Let guests know not to feed them table food
It’s a good idea to never feed your dog or cat people food, including bites of what you’re eating. If you never feed your pet pieces of what you’re eating, they will quickly learn not to expect anything when you sit down for a meal.
Similarly, let any family members or guests who are visiting know that they are not allowed to feed your pet anything that they’re having. It’s super easy (and not rude at all) to let your guests know that you’re focused on training your pet right now, and to please refrain from feeding your pet any goodies while they're there.
Teach your pet the “place” command
Keeping your pet in one place as you eat is a great way to teach them to leave the table alone as you’re eating. You can easily teach this command to your pet by marking a specific place for them to go to when you need them out of your way.
This isn’t necessarily a punishment, as it will ideally be a comfy place for your pet, like to their dog bed or a cozy spot near their food and water bowl. This useful command can also come in handy when you have guests who don’t want to interact with your pet, or whenever you answer the door to sign for a package or greet someone. Saying “go to your place” will teach the pet to retreat to a safe and comfortable place when you’re busy, without fear.
If you have questions about table manners, behavior, or training in general, the Vet Pros at Pawp are here to chat 24/7.