Todays hot topic is counter surfing! I work with plenty of dogs who love to get their paws up on the kitchen counters or dining table.
Dogs who counter surf have more often than not been hugely rewarded for this, it takes only one repetition of the dog popping up onto the counter to have a look and find treasure. Now I know we all tend to think that the dog is looking for food but many dogs just love to take ANYTHING from the worktop, like a letter, tea towel etc.
Think about that scenario they steal something and either they eat it and enjoy it by playing with it or destroying it. You then rush in giving them loads of attention to try to take the ‘thing’ back from them. In both these cases the dog got a big kick out of this, it either made their belly happy or they got a lot of attention from you.
So how do you stop a dog counter surfing?
The best way to tackle this problem is a combination between management and good training. Management means not allowing the dog into the kitchen or dining room if they are unsupervised and good training can be training behaviours such as a solid go to bed or settling on a mat.
If your dog is a counter surfer and the kitchen is where you leave them when you are not at home then you need to think of another safe space to leave them. They will be able to practise counter surfing when you’re not at home and that is only going to make that behaviour stronger. The key is to limit the rehearsal of the behaviour.
The aim of a good combination of management and training is that the dog never gets to rehearse the behaviour of counter surfing. Remember it takes only one repetition for the dog to see the enjoyment in this and after that one time they will try and try again.
1. Make sure there is nothing that the dog can access from the counter, push everything towards the back.
2. Maybe use a baby gate on the kitchen to stop the dog getting access if you are not at home.
Teach a Go to mat cue- this will require a lot of reinforcement so stick with it.
3. Reward your dog for good choices in and around the kitchen, especially if they resist temptation when you are cooking.