Canine Counter Surfing

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Counter Surfing

How many times have we left food out on the counter only to come back and find an empty dish and a well fed dog? If a dog finds food on the counter once, he will continue to check back for more.

Below are some ways to prevent this behavior as well as things you can do to stop it once it
has begun.

Note: These techniques can also be applied to other places like the dinner table. It is very important to incorporate
management techniques into your training.

Management

The first step in any training program is preventing the dog from being able to make a mistake. For best results, use a combination of several or all of these.

  • Remove all food from the counter and keep it out of your dog’s reach. Please note that dogs can sometimes reach much further than we realize!
  • Make sure your dog is receiving proper nutrition from his diet.
  • Give your dog plenty of things to keep him busy during the day.
  • Put up a baby gate to keep your dog out of the kitchen entirely.

Training

The next step is to let your dog know what you want him to do.

  • Teach your dog a leave it cue with people food, and make sure to never feed him any food that you don’t want him to try to steal in the future.
  • Train your dog not to put his feet on any furniture items, especially counter tops.
  • Teach your dog a sit near to the counter where he was previously stealing food. Reward him each time he sits next to the counter without putting his paws up.
  • You can also teach your dog a “place” cue in the kitchen using a mat or dog bed

Extinction

Once there is no longer food on the counter for your dog to steal, he should eventually stop checking for it and the behavior
should stop on its own.

If this does not happen, there is something still reinforcing your dog for counter surfing. If you are unable to figure out what that is,
consult with a professional trainer who can assist you in finding the reinforcer. As a last resort, you may need to employ a deterrent.

Note: Deterrents are a type of punishment. As with all punishment, it can be tricky to determine the level
that will be effective for your dog. Too much can be damaging and too little will be ineffective. These should only be used as a last resort and after consulting with a professional trainer.

Deterrents

Since this is a behavior that your dog most likely exhibits when you are not in the room, you can proof your training by setting up a “booby trap” for your dog on the kitchen counter.

It is very important not to use noise making deterrents on sound sensitive dogs and to consult with a professional trainer before employing one of these

Deterrents are never to be used for training.

  • You can make your own deterrents by setting empty cookie sheets on the edge of the counter that will make a loud noise
    when your dog pulls them off. If your dog has done this in the past and is still counter surfing, this will likely not work for him.
  • You can put packing up, sticky side up, along the edge of the counter and attach it to a string of aluminum cans. When your dog puts his paws on the counter, they will get stuck to the tape and pull the cans down, making a loud racket.
  • A Snappy™ Trainer is a device that consists of a paddle connected to an upside down mousetrap. It is triggered
    when a dog touches it. Fortunately, the dog cannot get his paws caught in the device and will not be injured. Put a
    piece of newspaper over the device to hide it from your dog.
  • A SSSCAT™ device is a motion activated system that triggers a blast of air when a dog comes within a certain distance of it. This is the best device to use if you have a dog that may become frightened by loud noises.

Tips:

  • Never use corrections on a dog without first teaching him what you want him to do.
  • Corrections have to be tailored to your dog’s temperament. It is very important to understand
    your dog’s temperament before using any type of deterrent.
  • Deterrent devices are not for every dog. Consult with a professional trainer to help
    determine the best training method for your dog.

This article was written and shared by Tricia Casper, CPDT-KA at Tricia Casper Dog Training