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The choice of whether or not to allow pets on tables is a personal one, although it should take into account the species of pet, how the table is used, and how well behaved the pet is. Some households have no problem with mild mannered pets at the table and live in harmony with their animals, while others prefer more clear boundaries about where animals are allowed. Whether a household permits pets on tables or not, the important thing is to be consistent and clear with animals so that they are not confused. It is also important to make sure that all guests and members of the household understand the house rules about pets on tables.
Size is an important factor in considering whether or not to allow pets on tables. Many larger pets live outdoors or would not logistically fit on a table, thus making the issue a moot point. Medium sized dogs, however, might try to jump up onto the table to explore. Since a medium sized dog could damage the table or objects being stored on the table, pet owners may want to consider discouraging this behavior. Smaller pets like lapdogs and cats are less likely to cause a disturbance, and exotic species like lizards and small birds are probably best suited to being allowed on the table, as they are usually incapable of doing permanent damage.
If a table is used for food preparation or consumption, pets should probably not be allowed on it. Not only may some pets carry a health risk due to bacteria that they pick up throughout the day, but they may also take to stealing food from the table. While begging table scraps can be quaint, having the Thanksgiving turkey dragged off the table and under the bed is not. Not allowing pets on tables that are used for food ensures that your food is safe from depredation and contamination. If animals are allowed on tables which are used for food, they should never be permitted on the table when there is food on it.
Other tables may be used for purposes like craft projects, homework, or construction tasks. If this is the case, pets should probably be taught not to jump on the table when work is spread out on it, but otherwise there is no reason not pets on tables used for these purposes. Sewing tables especially are popular spots for pets, because they are often positioned to take advantage of natural light, creating a warm pool of sunlight which is ideal for napping in.
Pets on tables should not be encouraged, even if it is permitted, and the rules about when and where pets are allowed should be firmly delineated. If an animal jumps on a table when it is not allowed, gently but firmly remove the animal to the floor. When an animal appears to be considering the leap, clapping your hands and saying “NO!” will reinforce that pets on tables are not encouraged. Never hit an animal who is disobeying the rules: use a firm voice and clear language for discipline.