You come home from a long day of work, rush to get dinner ready, step into the other room for a minute, and come back to find that your dog has knocked over, destroyed, or eaten your meal. Sound familiar?
Counter surfing, as this behavior is so lovingly referred to, can be extremely frustrating and a difficult habit to break. You may think there’s no hope for training your pooch to keep their paws off your countertops, but don’t worry! We’ve put together a list of seven tricks that really will help stop your dog from practicing this pesky habit.
1. Keep the Counters Clean
Most of the time, your pooch will be scavenging your countertops because they smell like the food you’ve prepared on them. Dogs have a fantastic sense of smell, and although you may not notice the scent of last night’s tacos lingering on the countertops, your pooch might. Keeping your counters cleaned and sanitized will help dissuade your pup from perusing for food scraps.
Dogs usually learn pretty quickly that countertops aren’t the best area to search for treats or food morsels. Merely keeping all food off of your counters for a few weeks will likely result in your pup jumping up, finding nothing, and beginning to associate the countertops with coming up empty-handed.
2. Keep Your Pup Crated While Cooking
The more chances your pup has to get a tasty snack off of the countertops, the more likely they are to associate them with human food. When you’re cooking in your kitchen and your dog is sticking close by, it’s tempting to give them a small piece of food. However, what they’re seeing is that snacks come from the countertops, and these kinds of interactions can lead to your dog trying to cut out the middleman and get the remnants of your dinner without your help.
Keeping your pup crated while you’re cooking will help limit the association between the countertops and human food, especially since it will dissuade you from feeding them directly from the counter.
3. Reward Alternative Behavior
One of the best ways to get your dog to stop counter surfing is to reward more desirable behavior. Rewarding a substituted behavior is a process that will take some time to get right, but once you do, your pup will better understand boundaries and be willing to do as you ask.
The first step is to teach your pup an alternative behavior. Whenever your dog jumps up on the counter, give a command to sit or go to a specific spot to lie down. Dogs learn quickly with food as a reward, so offer your pup a small treat each time they listen. They will learn that, while there may be food that is being prepared on the counter, they have a guaranteed treat coming if they perform the alternative behavior.
4. Place Aluminum Foil On Your Countertops
If your pup doesn’t stop surfing your counters using some of the above tricks, you can lay some aluminum foil on the edge of your counter where your dog’s paws will land when jumping up. Dogs don’t like the sound of foil, and they won’t like how it feels on their paws either. The crinkling of the foil will dissuade them from counter surfing.
It isn’t realistic to keep the aluminum foil on your countertops indefinitely, but a week or two should help solidify for your pup that the counters make an unwanted noise when they jump up to scavenge for food.
5. Hide Treats Elsewhere
Many dogs learn to jump on the counter because it yields them tasty food morsels. You can help train your dog that the counter isn’t the best place to get snacks by hiding pieces of their food or small treats elsewhere in the kitchen.
Before you start preparing food, hide three or four treats around the kitchen no more than a foot off the ground. If your pup comes in and tries to jump up on the counter, lead them to one of the treats. Continue this process until they learn that they’re more likely to get snacks by searching low to the ground than they are on the counter.
6. Teach Your Dog to “Leave It”
This trick involves teaching your dog that obeying you will yield them something even tastier than a tempting snack in front of them!
Begin by leashing your dog and leaving a piece of regular dog food on the floor outside of their leash. Whenever your puppy pulls toward the piece of food, ask them sternly to “leave it.” Continue this until they cease pulling and trying to get the food. Once they stop, give them a tastier treat they don’t usually get throughout the day from your pocket.
Once this behavior is reinforced, begin using the command when your pup jumps up on the counter. Once your dog gets down, reward them with a special treat.
This method takes some time to drill in, but eventually, your dog will understand that if they listen to you when you tell them to “leave it,” no matter what the “it” is, they’re more likely to get something extra tasty.
7. Do Nothing
This isn’t a joke, we promise! Some dogs learn to counter surf because it gets them attention, and they don’t do it for the potential food reward. If you think this might be the reason your dog is counter surfing, your best bet is probably to do nothing when you see your pooch jump up on the counter.
If they jump up while in your presence, and especially while you’re preparing food, step back from the counter, and don’t engage. When your dog gets down, give them an affirmation, like a sturdy “yes,” and then go back to food prep. Repeat this process as many times as you need until your dog understands that jumping up on the counters won’t yield attention.
Make sure never to give your dog a piece of food when they jump up on your counters and don’t give them attention. Also ensure that there is no food within their reach when you step away, because
Training a counter-surfing dog to keep their paws off your countertops can be difficult and frustrating, and drilling in better behavior will require some dedication and patience on your end. Hopefully, these tricks will help you end your pup’s bad counter-surfing habit so you can prepare food in your kitchen without worrying about your pooch ruining your dinner.
Featured Image Credit: Tatjana Baibakova, Shutterstock