Holidays Are Not So Merry With A Counter Surfer in the House

If you haven’t heard the term counter surfing, it may mean you’ve never had it take place in your house, and that’s a good thing! If you are familiar with it, however, you know it is one of the more troublesome habits your dog can pick up, and it needs to be addressed right away.

If your small dog leaps up onto the kitchen counter to nose around and help herself to whatever looks tasty, you have a counter surfer. Likewise if your large dog scans the same area with his front paws perched on the counter like a very furry patron bellying up to the bar.

Dogs love food. Dogs love any opportunity to get at food and wolf it down, even if--and sometimes seemingly because--we are yelling at them not to. More than a mischievous habit, though, gobbling up any type of people food can be seriously harmful to your pet. Put the wrong food--or non food items like medication-- in the path of a counter surfing dog and you could have a serious emergency on your hands.

Add to that the fact that your dog’s paws cover a lot of ground during the day. From running through dirt, across pavement, and let’s face it, right over some of their own urine, they are far from clean. Do you want those feet on the counter where you prepare meals? Yuck! There’s a danger factor as well; it is not unheard of to have a dog jump up toward the cabinets, only to land on the stove knobs, inadvertently turning on the oven. Your dog could also jump up at the wrong time, such as when you have a pot of boiling water in your hands. The list goes on.

For the health and sanity of all involved, counter surfing behavior needs to stop. But how can you eliminate behavior that primarily happens when you aren’t around?

Your dog can’t snag what isn’t there. Be sure to keep your countertops clear of food items at all times, and clean up quickly after cooking or serving food. Even a few crumbs can catch the nose of a curious dog, so wiping down the counters thoroughly is key. When your dog starts to realize that there’s nothing enticing up there anymore, he will learn that his habit isn’t really worth it.

You can also choose to keep your dog away from the kitchen altogether by blocking his access to the room. Our Shields® Plus Indoor Transmitter and Shields® Gate Indoor Transmitter are two options; both work in conjunction with your dog’s Invisible Fence® collar to keep him from walking through the doorway. Likewise, our Micro Shields® perform the same function in smaller spaces; a strategically placed unit on the counter itself allows your dog into the kitchen but keeps him away from higher ground.

Aside from, or in addition to blocking your dog’s access to the counter, it’s good to use some training exercises to help him break his counter surfing habit. Be aware that the best time to correct an unwanted behavior is before it actually happens, when your pup is just thinking about misbehaving. If you observe your pet closely, you will be able to determine that he is contemplating counter surfing, and this is when you should interrupt that thought with a startling "No!", followed by praise when he turns away from the temptation. Over time, your dog will learn that as much as he wants to check out what’s up there, he knows he’ll be rewarded for the alternate behavior--in this example, turning away.

As always, if you could use additional help in managing difficult behaviors, our professional trainers are here for you. Through working with thousands of families, we’ve developed tried and true methods that we can share in a Manners or eManners session. Together we’ll get your dog away from the counter, which is better and safer for everyone.

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