Counter surfing can be one of the most frustrating behaviors for dog owners to deal with. Not only is it annoying, it can be dangerous for your dog if they steal food that is not safe for them to eat. Some dogs may even scarf down what they stole so quickly that they choke or it causes an obstruction in their gastrointestinal system. Let’s look at why dogs counter surf in the first place, and what you can do to stop it.
Why Dogs Counter Surf
Putting paws up on the counter or kitchen table in search of food is a natural dog behavior. Dogs are scavengers and opportunists, and human food is hard for them to resist. Imagine how hard it would be to walk by a food truck giving away free tacos, but you aren’t allowed to have any! Now imagine having to do that with a sense of smell that is 100,000 more sensitive than a human’s! It’s hard for dogs to resist checking out what’s on the counter when the pick up the scent of something yummy.
Preventing Counter Surfing
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! This first step toward preventing counter surfing is the same no matter your dog’s breed, size or age. Take a look around your kitchen and think about ways you can manage the environment to prevent counter surfing from happening in the first place.
- Blocking off access to the kitchen with doorway gates or an exercise-pen
- Keeping kitchen counter clear of any food items
- Thoroughly cleaning counters after cooking to make sure there are no juices, crumbs, or food residue that would entice your dog to counter surf
When working with a dog to break bad behavior such as counter surfing, begin with this statement: “Instead of (insert bad behavior here), I want my dog to (insert good behavior here).”
- Instead of counter surfing, I want my dog to keep all four paws on the floor.
- Instead of jumping up at the counter, I want my dog to walk away.
- Instead of jumping up at the kitchen table, I want my dog to stay out of the kitchen.
Once you fill in those blanks, it’s then up to you to teach your dog that it’s more rewarding to practice the alternative behavior than their previous bad behavior. Practice first with minimal distractions to set your dog up for success. Don’t expect them to walk away from enticing aromas or stay out of the kitchen if you leave a juicy steak on the counter during their first training session.
Use Tin Foil – Most pets don’t like the feeling of tin foil or the sound it makes when it rustles. To deter your dog from getting on the counter consider putting a sheet or two of tin foil along the edge of the counter. Though this method may seem unconventional, it can be used in conjunction with proper training.
Manage your Dog – This means if you can’t keep a watchful eye, try another tactic. Tether your dog to your body using a leash, crate them for a nap, or put them outside so they can burn off some energy. Do whatever it takes to remove the temptation and set your dog up for success and not failure.
Keep your Dog Busy – A mentally enriched dog is a happy dog. Give your dog treats or their meals through enrichment toys, puzzles, and training. Never give these in the kitchen, instead give them in the living room, in their crate, or even outside. This teaches them that good things come when they aren’t in the kitchen.
Your Pets are our Priority!
At the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), our number one priority is to promote the health and well-being of your pets. That is why we created the NASC Audit Program and the Quality Seal, which helps you identify animal health and nutritional supplements that come from responsible suppliers committed to producing the highest quality, most consistent products available. Visit our website to learn more and to see a list of NASC members that have earned the Quality Seal.