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How to stop your dog from counter surfing

Does it feel like every time you turn around your dog is up to their old tricks again rummaging around the kitchen? Counter surfing, or the art of scavenging for food on countertops, is a common behavior problem among dogs that can be frustrating and potentially dangerous. However, with patience, consistency, and the right approach, you can curb this behavior and create a harmonious kitchen environment for both you and your canine companion. Here's how:

Understanding the Behavior:

Before diving into solutions, it's essential to understand why dogs engage in counter surfing. Dogs are natural scavengers, and countertops are like a treasure trove of tempting smells and tasty treats. Additionally, if they've been rewarded in the past by finding food on the counter, they'll be more likely to repeat the behavior.

Clear the Counters:

The simplest way to prevent counter surfing is to remove the temptation altogether. Make sure to keep countertops clear of any food, dirty dishes, or enticing objects when you're not actively using them. This eliminates the opportunity for your dog to be reinforced by finding something delicious.

Reinforce Good Behavior:

Teach your dog an alternative behavior that is incompatible with counter surfing, such as lying on a designated mat or bed while you're in the kitchen. Start by rewarding them for being in the desired location and gradually increase the duration. Consistently reinforce this behavior with treats, praise, and attention whenever they choose to stay away from the counters.

Train a "Leave It" Behavior:

The "leave it" behavior is invaluable for teaching your dog impulse control and redirecting their attention away from forbidden items. Start by holding a treat in your closed fist and saying "leave it." When your dog ignores your hand, reward them with a different treat from your other hand. Practice this until they reliably respond to the cue, then apply it to items on the counter.

Supervise and Manage:

When you're unable to actively supervise your dog in the kitchen, confine them to a safe and secure area such as a crate or gated room. This prevents them from practicing undesirable behaviors when you're not around to intervene.

You can also manage your dog by keeping them on their leash. This will ensure that you are monitoring them and can deter them away from jumping on the counters when food is present.

Consistency is Key:

Above all, consistency is crucial when addressing counter surfing. Enlist the help of all household members to ensure that everyone follows the same rules and reinforces the desired behaviors consistently. With time, patience, and positive reinforcement, you can teach your dog to keep their paws off the counter and enjoy a peaceful kitchen environment together.


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