We’ve all been there; you’re right in the middle of cooking and you turn your back for just a moment and suddenly, your half-baked, tasty treat is gone! You glance down and see that Fido has nabbed your masterpiece right off the counter and is now scarfing it down as fast as his little body will allow. You try to tell him to stop, but it’s too late… Fido has struck again! Counter surfing and stealing food right from under our noses is a common dog behavior that many pet parents struggle with. And with Thanksgiving right around the corner and many people preparing to do a lot of cooking, it’s important to learn how to control and stop this annoying and potentially dangerous habit.
The trick is, of course, management. Making sure that items and food are kept as far back off the counter as possible is the first step to stopping the habit. This is because every time your dog jumps on the counter and successfully steals an item, they have reinforced the idea that this habit gets them a reward. If, however, the rewards are out of reach and your dog continuously fails at reaching their goal, they will eventually give up and learn that jumping on the counters get them nothing for their efforts. As such, it’s always important to move all food items as far back as possible, and monitor your pet while you cook or interact in the kitchen. Better yet, have your dog stay in a different room while you bake and reward them for their behavior with a puzzle toy or treat.
And speaking of treats, another way to stop your dog from counter surfing is to reward them for when they aren’t. Assign a cue word to when your dog stops counter surfing so you can mark it in the future and train them to stop jumping. For example, if your dog puts his paws on the counter or table simply say “off” or “leave it” and as soon as his paws hit the floor, reward him for the behavior. This will reinforce the idea that paws on the floor equals treat, while paws on the counter equals nothing. Eventually, you can begin to cue your dog before they even make the jump and slowly weed out the behavior all together. As with all training, your dog needs to feel like they are getting something for their efforts so keep the treats coming and be consistent, patient, and kind!