It’s the holidays, and if you haven’t noticed all the extra food that seems to be lying around–your pets certainly have! Rover started smelling that Christmas ham while it was thawing, and 6 hours later he’s staring deep into the oven window and drooling.  Okay, so not everyone has a dog like one of the Bumpus hounds from A Christmas Story, but many dogs could learn a few things about table manners, and it’s on their owners to help teach them.

First things first, establishing a routine when your dog is a puppy–or now if they have poor table manners– is essential. It’s important for your dog to realize the difference between your dinner time and their dinner time. Placing their mealtime just before or during your mealtime can lead to better manners, since they are occupied with their own food. In time, this can reduce begging and other poor table manners.

The consistency of a feeding routine can be broken by giving in to your dog begging at the table, or even accidentally leaving food out that your dog can easily access. Odds are they will give in to the temptation. I’ve seen a particularly creative beagle pull things off of a counter-top with ease. Help keep the routine strong and your pets healthy by not feeding them random food from the table while you’re eating. Always make sure to store your food in places where an unwatched pet can swipe it.

The last part of the routine is about establishing locations for feeding. Why tempt fate by placing your dog’s bowl at the foot of the dinner table? If you’re eating dinner at the same time as your dog, this will help keep the mealtime routines separate, but also give your dog another feedback loop you can manage. Helping them understand that they need to stay in their eating area–and out of yours–during dinner time will also help solidify their mealtime routine.

By following these few easy rules, you too can have pets as well behaved at the table as these guys.

P.s. In case of a holiday emergency like a crafty golden retriever eating all of Santa’s cookies…don’t panic. Contact your local vet immediately for care recommendations or the pet poison control hotline, and make sure any other food is safely out of reach.