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How to Stop Counter Surfing

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

You know the scene too well: you've left your sandwich on the counter while you turned away for a moment, and then it's gone! And your dog is gulping it down, after grabbing it off the counter. It can be SO FRUSTRATING, and you can't believe your dog would be so rude. So how can you get them to stop jumping up on tables/counters?

The first piece is making sure your dog CANNOT get anything good off the counter. This might mean not leaving anything exciting out, or using baby gates to prevent your dog from getting too close. But we have to prevent them from getting to anything on the counter.

Why? If your dog jumped up on the counter and grabbed a chicken breast, they just got a BIG positive reinforcer! The reward of that chicken makes them think "heck yes, that worked out so well for me. I'll do that again!" So every time they snatch something, they're learning that jumping up is a great idea.

Repeat the step above! Again! (Seriously, if your dog can still get to stuff on the counters while you're trying to train, it'll be nearly impossible to overcome).

Next, we can teach our dogs an alternative. I like teaching a "4 on the floor" (all paws on the ground) for this. We start by being near the counter, and rewarding the dog for.... standing there. Do this all around the counter! Then we can start putting something exciting on the counter (but out of reach). Keep rewarding for staying safely on the ground!

Once they're rocking this, start practicing it on different surfaces (kitchen counter, coffee table, etc) and in different situations (while you're sitting at the dining table, while you're cooking).

We're teaching your dog that regardless of what tasty thing is up on the counter, it's better to stay on the ground! We call this an "auto-leave it," because the dog learns that any good stuff up on a counter is automatically NOT for them. You can also teach your dog an "off" cue, but remember- that only works if your pup has already jumped up! So we recommend working on an auto-leave it so they're less inclined to jump up in the first place.

Need some help working on this with your pup? Schedule a private consultation!


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