Counter surfing can be an annoying and frustrating habit for your dog to develop. It can also be dangerous for your dog if they get into something that can be poisonous, or knock a sharp or hot object off of your counter or stove. However, we have to keep in mind that dogs are scavengers and unless they are taught that counter surfing is wrong, they will continue the habit.
There are many reasons a dog counter surfs.
- Stealing food and other items is a rewarding behavior! Every time your dog gets food off of the counter they are rewarded by eating something yummy. The more your dog is rewarded for something the more they are likely to repeat that behavior.
- Often times dogs steal items simply because they don’t know any better. They have never been taught that it is an inappropriate behavior.
- Some dogs will steal items to seek attention from you. They learn stealing food off the counter or something off the coffee table gets your attention and often a fun game of chase is the result!
- Counter surfing can also be the result of separation anxiety.
- Boredom and lack of exercise can lead to counter surfing.
So, how do you prevent or stop counter surfing? There are several options and you may need to use more than one method.
- Prevention – Don’t leave yummy items unattended and risk your dog self-rewarding herself! Especially when they are not supervised.
- Don’t wait until your dog is actually on the counter. As you see her approach, tell her “NO” firmly while she is still thinking about it. Be willing to follow up immediately by moving toward her with a stern look. Wait until she obeys by walking away, lying down, etc. then praise her choice.
- Never feed your dog from the counter or dinner table. If you want to give your dog a treat give it to her in her bowl or from your hand after you’ve moved away from the counter or table.
- Provide your dog with plenty of physical and mental exercise. This includes walks, food puzzles and training sessions.
- Obedience training can help eliminate counter surfing. Teach your dog the “Off” and “leave it” commands and practice with yummy items on tables, chairs, counters, etc. Train your dog to go to her “bed” while you are preparing or eating dinner.
- Put upside down self-sticky shelf liner on the counter’s edge with the stick side up. Be sure you are supervising in case your dog actually thinks the sticky on her paws is fun.
- You can also try buying some foul tasting substances at your local pet store for this purpose. Put some of this liquid on the “bait” and wait for your dog to try to steal it. The idea is that the food from the counter will become unappealing to your dog and therefore she will stop stealing because there is nothing in it for her.
- When you feel your dog is ready to be left home unsupervised loose in the house, leave her with safe toys and a stuffed Kong or other safe food toy. This will help if counter surfing was a result of separation anxiety.
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