Begging -- 9 Tips to Table the Pleas

Your heart swells as your loyal, loving pet gazes up at you with those soft brown eyes. Then you notice the whining, the drooling and the unrelenting stare at your fork. This isn't about love. It's about your food -- she wants it, and she wants it now.

It's hard to ignore a good mooch, but if you give in, experts say, you'll never have a peaceful meal again. So be strong, hang onto your plate and follow these helpful hints.

For Dogs and Cats

Feed her first
"If your dog or cat is really full, she just won't be as inspired to ask for more," says Kathryn Segura, who trains animals for television and movies and is co-owner of PHD Animals in Studio City, California.

Don't give in to guilt
No matter how much she manipulates your emotions with those Oliver Twist eyes -- "Please, master, may I have some of yours?" -- remind yourself that your pet is already well-fed and doesn't need human food, says M. Lynne Kesel, D.V.M., assistant professor of elective surgery in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in Fort Collins.

Make her leave for leftovers
If you do decide to slip her a snack, don't do it from the table, Dr. Kesel adds. Otherwise your pet will begin confusing your mealtimes with hers. "If I'm eating something healthy and I can't finish it, at the end I'll put a little in their bowls," she says.

Lay down the law
Usually just raising your voice will send your pet scurrying to another room. If that doesn't work, try honking a bike horn or rattling a shake can. "After a few times, they should get the message," says Gary Landsberg, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Thornhill, Ontario, who specializes in animal behavior.

To make a shake can, put some coins inside an empty soda can. Tape up the hole and you've got a noisemaker extraordinaire.

Say it with spray
Cats can be incorrigible beggars, even jumping on tables and stealing food when you don't hand over a handout. And dogs aren't above trying some pretty pushy maneuvers themselves. To discourage such brazen behavior, surprise your pet with a blast from a spray bottle. The plastic bottle you use to spray plants will do nicely. Just aim for whatever part of your pet is handy, says Bob Gutierrez, animal behavior coordinator at the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Isolate the problem
"When your dog or cat is driving you crazy, tell her ' No!' and calmly put her in another room and shut the door," says Dr. Landsberg. You may get complaints in the form of barking or meowing, but don't let her out until you're done eating. "Eventually she'll figure out that if she doesn't beg, she doesn't get sent away," says Dr. Landsberg.

Try a sticky solution
Does your pet's begging repertoire include jumping up on kitchen counters? If so, try putting strips of double-sided tape in strategic spots. Then stand back and watch, says Gutierrez. "They hate the sensation of their paws getting a little stuck," he says. "They're unlikely to return, but just in case, buy an extra-big roll."

Give in -- just a little
Some people love feeding their pet at the table and don't want to give it up entirely. As a compromise, try slipping her something healthy, like lettuce, suggests Myrna Milani, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Charlestown, New Hampshire, and author of The Body Language and Emotions of Cats and The Body Language and Emotions of Dogs. "If she doesn't like it, you've done your part -- and if she does, you're not loading her down with fattening food," she says.

For Dogs Only

Send her to school
If your pooch's pleas are starting to peeve, why not try obedience school? Once you've both mastered the essential commands like "Stay!" and "Down!" you'll have peace in the family once again. "This way it's not a constant battle at the dinner table," says Dr. Landsberg.

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