3 simple steps to stop counter surfing

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Do you turn your back for a second to find your dog has their paws on the worktop, trying to steal that sandwich you just made?

Do you feel like you spend your life telling your dog to, ‘get off!’?

Or perhaps you’ve brought a new puppy home and want to ensure they aren’t a future counter surfer? 

Then you need to follow these 3 simple steps to stop your dog counter surfing.

1. Stop rehearsal

Dogs are creatures of habit and will carry on doing what they have always done - providing it has worked for them. So the first step to stopping your dog jumping up at your worktops is to break the habit. 

You can do this by limiting your dog’s access to the kitchen counters. This could be by simply shutting them out of the kitchen, putting a gate on the door or putting your dog in a pen or crate.

Whenever your dog does go into the kitchen, this should be strictly supervised so they don’t have a chance to make a mistake.

If you have a persistent counter surfer, you may want to bring your dog into the kitchen on their lead so you have more control. 

Don’t worry, this isn't forever. Just until the habit has been broken and you’ve developed an alternative behaviour (more on that later).

2. Make sure it’s not rewarding

As mentioned above, your dog will only repeat a behaviour if it’s rewarding. If there are items on the countertops within your dog’s reach, and they get to them, they have just been rewarded for their behaviour.

However, for some dogs this annoying habit is formed because of our actions. If jumping up at the counter results in an immediate reaction from you - even if it’s to tell them off - your dog may choose to repeat the behaviour simply to get your attention. 

Or it could be a mixture of the two that is making this rewarding for your dog. 

The first is likely a bit easier to implement. Push items to the back of the counter or just clear it completely. It’s much harder to stop yourself reacting when your dog is doing something they shouldn’t!

That’s where step 1 comes in. If you set up your home so that your dog can’t get to the counters, then you don’t have to worry about giving them attention if they do the wrong thing. 

I can hear some of you saying, “but what if they do jump up? What should I do?”.

In this case try and delay your response by just a couple of seconds so that you aren’t immediately reacting. Then casually grab a toy or treats and pretend they are the most exciting things you’ve ever seen in your life.

Crouching down on the floor facing away from your dog will help to encourage their curiosity. When they come over to you to investigate, reward them, either with a play or some treats.

Afterwards, have a think about what led to your dog having the opportunity to jump up at the counter. Can you do more to stop this in future?

3. Give them an alternative job

Now you’ve stopped your dog from doing what you DON’T want, you need to teach them what you DO want.

The simplest approach is to give your dog an alternative behaviour to perform that makes it impossible for them to jump up at the same time.

Personally, I choose to teach my dogs to go to their bed or a mat when in the kitchen. Whenever your dog is in the kitchen, lead them over to their bed and reward them for staying on it.

Start off small by only asking them to be there for a few minutes with regular rewards. Gradually increase time on the bed and decrease the frequency of the rewards. 

Once your dog is happy being on their bed for longer periods of time, you can start to increase the difficulty for your dog by walking around the kitchen or even preparing that tasty sandwich! You may need to reward them more often again for a while to reinforce their choice to stay on their bed. 
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With these 3 simple steps to stopping counter surfing your dog will have kitchen freedom in no time. And you’ll be able to relax knowing your food is safe! 

Do you have any other training struggles you need help with? Arrange a 1-2-1 with me today! These sessions are perfect for putting a bespoke training plan in place, and as they’re online you can join them from anywhere.
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