Does your dog like to jump on your counter and steal food or love tipping over the trash can? Most dogs do. Especially puppies or rescue dogs.
Dogs are natural scavengers and opportunistic feeders, so counter surfing and trash can diving are basically hard-wired behaviors. Smelling those juicy morsels just out of reach and figuring out how to get them becomes a delightful game that needs barely any reinforcement to develop into full-scale obsession.
The best protection against counter surfing is to prevent the habit from forming in the first place. Dogs do what works. If counter surfing pays off once, it is very hard to change and can cause a lot of frustration for you.
So, what do you do to insure it never gets started? One of the best solutions is to keep the counter cleared of anything tempting. This is mainly food but can also be other items such as medicine, mail, car keys, and any thing we would normally drop on the counter when we come into the house after a hard day of work. This not only applies to your counters but to the kitchen table, the coffee table, and your home desk. And don’t underestimate your pup’s ability to reach high places.
In the kitchen, always put leftover foods away (this is good food safety advice, too). Keep countertop foods in Tupperware containers. Keep bread products in bins or jars. Put fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator or well out of reach. We push everything to the back of the counter.
You can also install child-proof latches on cupboard doors and use a trash can with a lid or place the can in a cupboard (with a latch).
However, if you are reading this after the fact and your dog has once managed to gulp down a loaf of bread while you fetched the mail, chances are you have an incurable counter surfer on your hands. What’s the answer? Manage, manage, manage. In addition to the above advice, consider installing doors in your kitchen and pantry or using a baby gate to restrict your dog’s access anytime you are not around to supervise. If your kitchen does not allow this, consider putting your pup in a secure area or use a tether or leash to secure them.
You can possibly use deterrents. There are many products on the market that claim to cure counter surfing. Frankly, most deterrents are ineffective. Hard-core counter surfers are typically highly food-motivated, crafty dogs that are not easily put off. The more you try, the craftier they get.
Don’t scold your dog unless you catch him in the act of stealing food. Dogs don’t understand delayed consequences, so your dog would not know why he is being lectured. Unfortunately, this for the most part does not work. Why? Dogs do what works. They will learn very quickly they cannot steal things off the counter, when you are watching. Once you leave everything is fair game.
The best solution is to prevent it before it starts.
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