Begging at the table can be something your dog brought with him from his previous home, and it is understandably a behavior that some find unacceptable.

If you’re not used to having a wet nose poking at your leg under the table or, worse, a pair of deep brown eyes staring pitifully up at you as you enjoy your pasta, it is possible to change the begging habit. Let’s start with easy solutions and progress to those that may require more effort on your part.

The most foolproof solution is to restrict your dog from the kitchen or dining area during meals. A simple baby gate in the kitchen doorway will solve your problem, unless your dog has resorted to whining or barking at the dinner table. In addition, it may be helpful to feed your dog before you feed yourself, just in case the begging is actually driven by hunger. Many dogs probably don’t know the meaning of the word!

The longest-term solution is known as “extinction”: in order to extinguish a behavior (and begging is a good example) you must remove every trace of reinforcement or reward. In other words, not only must you stop giving your dog any food from the dinner table, you must also try to stop dropping any surprises onto the floor. (Wasn’t it Freud who suggested “there are no accidents”?) Although extinction takes longer than other methods for stopping an undesired behavior, it tends to endure, as long as reinforcement is no longer given.

Finally, it is helpful to interrupt begging by giving the dog the “down-stay” command slightly away from the table or even in another room. To discourage dogs from developing a begging habit, or to help the transition to a “non-begging” home, offer the dog treats away from the table. When the family’s meal is finished, place some dog treats directly into the dog’s food bowl so that your dog makes no association between treats and your dining room table.