Can you trust your dog in the kitchen? Even when your back is turned? If you answered no, your dog has probably been rewarded for counter surfing. Counter-surfing is what we say when a dog jumps up onto counters or tables in search of food. Larger dogs might be able to place both front paws on the counter, while some smaller dogs might be capable of jumping up with all four paws on the counter. This behavior can not only be disruptive, but it can also be dangerous for your pup if they get into something that might be harmful to them.
So, why do dogs counter-surf? Dogs are scavengers, so counter surfing is completely normal. Dogs that counter-surf have learned that jumping on these surfaces can get them an easy snack. If they jump up once and grab a piece of bread, they will try and check for another piece of bread when they pass by another time. The more they are rewarded with something tasty, the more likely they will be to jump up on the counter. Here are some ideas to set your dog up for success.
Managing the situation is essential to dissuade your dog from counter-surfing. First, make sure you keep food off the counters. Use cupboards, high shelves, or the fridge to keep those items out of reach. When you are finished in the kitchen, wipe down the countertops to get rid of any yummy crumbs or drippings your dog might be able to lap up. Set up a baby gate to keep your dog out of the kitchen while preparing meals. This kind of management will make it so that even if your dog jumps up to the counter, they will not get rewarded. Over time your dog will work out that it is not worth it to counter-surf. You can also expedite this process by providing appropriate alternatives for your dog to get treats from you easily.
Train, Train, Train!
Train a “leave it” cue to have your dog ignore something that might have their attention. For example, reward your dog for resisting the urge to go after that pot of spaghetti.
Another good cue for a dog who likes to jump up is “off.” This cue ensures all four paws are on the ground. As soon as your dog returns to the floor, give them a treat to encourage their position.
You can also use a mat or bed to send your dog to their “place” while you work in the kitchen. If you are going to take a while, we recommend giving your dog an engaging toy of their own to keep them entertained until you are finished.
A note on giving your dog food from the table: feeding your dog “people food” or feeding them from the table does not necessarily encourage counter-surfing. You can practice good manners by asking for a “sit” or “down” before handing your dog a treat from the table. It is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you make sure the food you are using is not toxic or dangerous for dogs. Still, many food items, including some fruits and vegetables, are perfectly safe for your dog. Another thing to remember is how much or how often your dog is getting these treats. Please avoid feeding in excess to keep your dog at a happy, healthy weight. If you are worried about your dog’s diet, speak with your veterinarian to find suitable options for you.
Contact us to schedule a consultation for help with your counter surfer! (786) 299-1552