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Counter Surfing Solutions

Bernese Mountain Dog Stealing Lunch off the Counter

Does your dog counter surf?

Counter Surfing Attacks

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.

Removing the Temptation

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!

Booby Trapping

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.

Redirection

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.

Get Your Dog to Potty in the Rain

West Highland Terrier Refusing to go out onto the wet grass.

Dog does not want to potty on wet grass.

Fortunately, my dogs tolerate the rain. They don’t LOVE it like some dogs, but they will venture out into a downpour and take care of their business. But what if your dog refuses to go outside every time it rains? Let’s discuss some options you have to teach your dog to potty in the rain.

Work on your dog’s relationship with water. Some dogs only associate water with bath time. Teach your dog that water is fun by playing in it! Use garden hoses, pails of water, baby pools, etc. and just have a great time. If you dog is fearful, work slowly and carefully. If you bring out their favorite toys, favorite treats and even a few new things, most dogs will start enjoying themselves and before you know it, water will no longer be such a big deal.

Help them learn to love the soggy grass beneath their feet.Is it that they won’t walk on the wet grass? Then you need to get them to do so by feeding them on wet grass, or playing on wet grass. Show them that just like rain itself, this isn’t a big deal! Put a food bowl on the wet lawn. When they get hungry enough, out they’ll go to get some. Don’t cheat yourself and give them a freebie on dry land or this won’t work.

Help them to walk it off. Walking stimulates their “go” reflexes. Walk with them in the rain to help put them in the mood.

Play the waiting game. Wait until you know that your dog really, really, really has to go to the bathroom. Then hustle them outside. Even in the rain the urgency of their bodily function requirements will help garner the action.

Don’t make your dog go out alone. If your dog is not a fan of the rain, simply putting them in your yard and closing the door isn’t going to cut it, unless your goal is a full sized dog print on your door and a whiny unhappy canine. Go outside with them. Do not coddle them or pet them in the rain if they are uncomfortable or you will simply be telling them over and over again “Great Job! Keep shivering! Shake away!!! I love seeing you upset!” If you want to be encouraging and comfort your dog, show them the correct way to behave using their ritualized behavior practices.

Ritualized business practices. You heard me correctly. Make their private moments a ritual act. The use of cue words can help your dog to understand what they are doing out in the rain and how to “earn” their way back inside! The use of ritual saves your dog the time it takes to search for the perfect spot to poop! Give your dog the tools that it needs by being consistent.

Do not punish rain avoidance. If your dog is punished every time it rains, it will not increase its desire to go outside. Misplaced punishment can result in a dog conditioned by you to hate the rain even more and can even result in housebreaking regression. If you are on a housebreaking schedule, be sure to stick to it regardless of the weather to give your dog a fair shot at realizing your goals.

Last resort: Invest in a great umbrella. This will not help condition your dog to get used to the rain. It will not teach your dog that rain is harmless. It will not adjust their perspective on the weather… but it will keep you dry and can get the business done. We do NOT suggest this method as a way of promoting healthy dog mentalities or resolving rain resistance.

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