Counter Surfing

Photo by Keith Cannataro | www.mrhoni-photography.com

 

Put yourself in the dog’s paws and place your favorite food on the counter when you are hungry. Now walk past and see if you can resist taking a bite. The most realistic solution to counter surfing is to use a combination of management and training techniques to make it easy for your dog to avoid temptation.


Training Techniques:

  • Blocking access to places where food is left out by using baby gates or putting the dog in another room when you have company means there is no opportunity for your dog to fail.
  • If this is not a realistic option, you can try tethering your dog to you so that he is with you at all times.
  • If you are working in the kitchen and unable to use a baby gate, draw an imaginary line along the floor and teach your dog to stay behind that line.
  • To do this, you need to first teach a reliable 'Stay' cue so your dog understands what is expected of him.
  • If he crosses over the line, gently block him with your body until he goes behind the line again. If you reward him at intervals while he stays put, he will see this area as a good place to be.

How to Catch Your Dog In the Act of Stealing Food:

  • Put some food on the counter and then walk away to a place where you can see the food but where your dog thinks he is not being watched.
  • Pick up a magazine or pretend to be doing something else so he thinks you are not paying attention to him.
  • Wait for him to go up to the counter, and just before he jumps, ask him to 'leave it'.
  • If he backs away, praise him.
  • If he takes the food, calmly remove what is left and repeat the process, putting the food in a less accessible place to make it harder for him to be successful. When he is responding well, gradually move the food back to the place he previously took it from.
  • Start this exercise using low-value food before making it more difficult with the yummy stuff.

What Not To Do:
Some people use 'scat mats' to keep their dogs off of countertops and furniture. Although you may see short-term success in that your dog stays off the counter, the trauma of being shocked can cause emotional complications. Your dog may not want to come into the kitchen at all, and could even start having accidents in the house as a result of the stress and anxiety caused by being shocked.


Why Does My Dog Need to Know This?

  • Not only is counter surfing annoying for people, but it is also dangerous for dogs.
  • Stealing food can lead to ingesting plastic wrapping or eating food that is toxic to dogs.
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