I so frequently try and look at the world from a dog’s perspective that when I think about counter surfing I can’t help, but smile and think “Ah, what a rewarding activity”. This is the perfect example of a self rewarding activity.
If you were going to train your dog how to steal food off the counter how would you do it? Maybe, by leaving something yummy within reach? This accidently happens in all to many households. The good news is this is a fixable behavior through management and training.
How to manage counter surfing
When training your dog it is also best to try and set your dog up to be successful. One of the easiest ways to do that is DON’T LEAVE STUFF OUT on the counter your dog can eat.
Here are some other helpful tips:
Have no-go rooms: These are rooms that your dog isn’t allowed in such as the kitchen, bathroom or dinning room. While the layout of your house may not allow for all of these consider if this is an option for you.
Catch it before: If you notice your dog looking to see what’s up on the counters or sniffing the air on the counters discourage that immediately.
Give your dog more enrichment: If your dog enjoys seeking out rewards and finding treasures, like a loaf of bread from the counter then give him a appropriate way to do that. Do a treat scavenger hunt around the house or in the yard. You can also use a enrichment feeder like a KONG wobbler. more enrichment ideas
Here are some more counter surfing ideas:
Your dog is more likely to steal treasures from the counter if your not right there watching him, so when your not supervising your dog try using a kennel or baby gate to protect the goods.
Try making counter surfing less rewarding. If you have a more sensitive dog leaving tin foil or bubble wrap on the edge of your counter. Know your dog though, this may only work dogs that are sensitive with touch. Also, be sure your dog isn’t the type to eat these things.
My favorite way to work on this is to use the “leave it” cue. If your dog doesn’t yet know leave it try this link: Teaching Leave It
Once your dog knows leave it put him on a leash and set up a ton of fake training situations, by leaving “bait” on the edge of a counter or coffee table.
Start close to your dog and using low value bait –in other words don’t try this with steak on your first session. Wait for your dog to notice the bait then tell him to “leave it”.
When you say leave it your dog has a choice. Choice 1, choose to counter surf… choice 2, choose to leave it. If your dog chooses to counter surf use your leash to prevent him from reaching the bait. If he is able to snatch the bait he has rewarded himself for making the right choice. Wait, you may have to wait a long, long time the first couple of try’s. Then when your dog gives up trying to steal food off the counter say “Yes” and give your dog a extra yummy food reward.
Be sure to practice this on coffee tables, counters, and dinning room tables.
Practice this until you can no longer trick your dog into even trying to steal the bait, then take it a step father.
Using a longer leash try moving father away and having your dog leave it. You can even try hiding around the corner and just peeking while saying leave it.