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(207) 846-6515

BEHAVIOR: HOW TO STOP BEGGING AT THE TABLE

BEGGING: HOW TO STOP BEGGING AT THE TABLE
The fundamental principle is to extinguish the begging behavior by removing all
rewards:
■ The pet should not receive any food or attention for begging.
■ If there is any chance that food will inadvertently fall off the table, put the pet in
another location when people eat.
Expected pitfalls include:
■ The begging behavior is likely to escalate before it diminishes.
■ The pet may try different behavioral patterns for begging; however, if they are not
rewarded, they too will decrease.
■ This can be a difficult treatment plan to maintain; frustration, guilt, escalated pet
effort, and inadvertent reward (food falling off table) all contribute to failure.
Additional steps that may help with success include:
■ Exercise the pet prior to periods where begging is anticipated; a tired pet is less
likely to beg.
■ Feed the pet before humans eat; a satiated pet may beg less.
■ Feed the pet two to three smaller meals as opposed to one big meal in a 24-hour
period.
■ Segregate the pet in another location before eating.
■ Anticipate situations that may elicit begging and distract the pet with a different
activity.
 Provide the pet with a long-lasting food treat; food puzzle toys filled with
pet food or treats can be a distraction.
 Teach the pet to go to a location on command, such as a bed or a crate; send
there when begging is likely.
■ Deliver a remote punishment for begging behavior.
 Remote punishments such as squirts of water or making an aversive sound
may help in some cases. Timing is important when remote punishment is
used; it needs to be tightly correlated (1–2 seconds) with the behavior that
is being punished. If items are not readily available to deliver the remote
punishment and the timing of the punishment is off, it will render it ineffective
and may be inhumane. The intensity of the punishment needs to
be sufficient enough to inhibit the behavior but not so extreme as to cause
fear/anxiety/distress. Finally, punishment should be delivered consistently
(every time the pet begs), a difficult task for many people.
■ Interactive punishments (yelling, hitting, etc.) are not recommended since they
are often ineffective (pet perception is that it gained attention) or they may create
anxiety/aggression problems in the pet.
This handout may be reproduced without written permission.
 

Drs. Horwitz and Neilsen, Canine and Feline Behavior

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