There is no meal of the year that quite compares to that of Thanksgiving. As you’re preparing for your Thanksgiving, if you do not want your dog begging at the dinner table, the time to plan for success is now.
Remember if a behavior reoccurs it is because it has been reinforced. So, if you know in advance that your dog’s bumping at the table behavior is very probable, here are a few ideas:
You can use antecedent strategies (rearranging what happens in the environment immediately before the behavior is set into motion) to give less value to the bumping behavior and more value to resting. Some suggestions include satiating your dog BEFORE you sit down by feeding him in advance or redirecting his attention by giving him a tasty steak bone to chew on or a foraging toy that will keep his attention for awhile, or taking him for a long walk prior to the meal.
You can also teach your dog in advance an alternative behavior that will produce for him the same or more value than what he would get if he bumped you at the table – while removing any positive consequences to the bumping behavior. As his teacher, his ability to learn is dependent on your reliability (and EVERYONE in your household) to quickly reinforce the behavior you want to see – and every time he does the behavior in the beginning.
So, begin by teaching the alternative behavior (like sitting or laying down). Once on cue you can shape the behavior for longer durations before delivering reinforcement. Then, you can cue him to do the wanted behavior before you sit down to a meal and reinforce it. At the same time, if he begs, you can simply push your plate in to the center of the table and turn your back to him while sitting. Practice. Practice Practice.
Always make the wanted behavior easier and more valuable than the unwanted behavior.