Ok, so most of us have been there… You have just spent the remaining energy left in your day preparing a delicious dinner, and then you leave to quickly answer the door, change the channel, or grab a soda and BAM!, you return to an empty counter and a very satisfied “dead pooch walking.” Between dealing with a growling tummy and the daunting task of deciding whether or not to prepare something else or just order a pizza (along with not so nice thoughts about your canine companion… let’s just be real), the thought might come to you to deal with the issue and fix it. This problem is so common that it has a name: “Counter Surfing.” As with any not ideal dog behavior, there are lots of different methods to change your counter surfer into a well-mannered floor dweller. Let’s deal with three: removing the temptation, booby trapping and redirection.
The easiest solution to this common problem is completely eliminating all forms of temptation. In other words: no food = no counter surfing. Counter Surfing is a behavior that is learned very quickly. Dogs love food! Dogs learn counters equal FOOD! It’s really very simple. Every time the dog steals food, they are rewarded. If you got a twenty-dollar bill every time you touched a doorknob in your home, you would probably touch that doorknob a lot. Some of us would never leave the doorknob… it would be a problem. If the twenties suddenly vanished, you’d leave the doorknob alone pretty quickly. If you are very careful and make sure there are no plates left within reach, no food left on counters, and no crumbs left anywhere, then the dog will be much less interested in your kitchen and you will also be left with some serious cleaning skills. But, this is real life and in most cases, this isn’t a doable option. Kudos to you if you don’t need to read any further!
Since most of us are still in need of this article, let’s set the dog up. That’s right, we are going to tempt your dog with the promise of something delicious, say a hot dog, or a slice of cheese, only to crush his/her hopes and dreams. My favorite thing to use is a bread bag with just the heels left in it. Go ahead and pull out a few soda cans from your recycling bin, grab some loose change from between your couch cushions (pennies will work just fine), and place coins in the cans. I would use four or five cans filled with thirty or more pennies. Turn the tab around on the top of the can to seal in the coins or just duct tape over the top. Now stuff the cans between the two heels in the bag. Leave the end of the bag in a tempting position and exit the room. If your dog is startled enough by the noise and you do this often enough, the dog will learn it is not worth it to grab items off of the counter.
But what else can you do to rid your dog of this annoying habit? How about teach him/her something new? Teach your dog to get on his/her bed while you are cooking and remain there until you have finished putting the dishes in the dishwasher (don’t forget to close the door!). If you practice, and make it fun, your dog will have a whole new dinner routine and your food will be safe from the sneaky bandit.
© 2013 Well Mannered Dog Training Charleston, SC