Years ago, my lab-husky mix Salem looked a little pudgy. I thought, “I need to feed her less.” Later, I decided to have a piece of homemade strawberry bread – I had picked the strawberries from a strawberry patch – and the bread was nowhere to be found. The culprit? Salem! She ate the entire loaf of bread and hid the ripped baggie. Her swollen belly was the result of her prize!
Some dogs are sneaky about counter surfing, as Salem was, and wouldn’t dare try it in front of you. Instead, they watch you and wait for an opportunity. Other dogs will shamelessly attempt to steal from the counter right in front of you!
Once a dog is rewarded for counter surfing by obtaining treasure, it can be a hard habit to break. If your dog does already counter surf, do not despair. Here’s how to keep your dog off the counter and improve their kitchen etiquette:
How to Stop a Dog from Jumping on the Counter
Never Leave Your Dog Alone in the Kitchen
If you are in the kitchen, but cannot monitor your dog’s behavior (because you’re busy multi-tasking), then do not allow your dog in the kitchen during that time. Managing your dog’s access prevents them from getting a reward from the counter. Use baby gates to keep the dog in others rooms or tether your puppy to your waist with a leash, so the dog is with you instead of sneaking into the kitchen for a potential snack.
Do Not Leave Food Unattended on the Counter
Without delicious smells, the dog will be less likely to investigate. Of course, you will have food on the counter when you're cooking, so do not leave the room or food unattended unless your dog is secured.
Reward Good Behavior
When you are in the kitchen and your dog is not counter surfing, reward them with kibble (or treats) for having all four paws on the floor. Better yet, if your dog is lying down near you on a dog bed or mat, reward the dog often. Thus, the dog will think, “Better things happen to me when I am in this place than when I counter surf.”
Dogs repeat behaviors that work. If your dog “wins” by lying down and not surfing, then they’ll keep repeating that behavior. The bed behavior becomes the default kitchen behavior for the dog. Over time, reduce the rewards for the good behavior.
Interrupt Bad Behavior
If you catch your dog with their paws or muzzle on the counter, interrupt the behavior with a verbal "eh-eh" in a neutral, non-angry (but non-happy) voice and gently guide your dog by their collar to their nearby crate for a 20-second time-out.
Afterwards, let them out of the crate. If they surf again, repeat the verbal interruption and time out. This will NOT make them hate their crate. Human teenagers don't hate their room when they get sent there for a time out.
Consider Non-Harmful Booby Traps
Many dogs dislike citrus. Leave sliced lemons, limesm and oranges to deter your dog from inspecting the counter for opportunities. For a dog that dislikes lemons, make a lemon-juice sandwich for your dog and leave it on the edge of the counter. Your dog may decide that your food is gross!
Protect Your Pet!
If your dog doesn’t already counter surf or if you have a growing puppy that cannot yet reach the counter, ensure that lovely kitchen behaviors continue by doing steps 1, 2 and 3 above. Reinforce the behaviors that you like, so those behaviors continue!
Counter surfing can lead to unexpected vet bills. Get a dog insurance quote from AKC Pet Insurance today (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company) and prepare for accidents, illnesses, and much more.