How to Stop Your Dog From Counter Surfing
The missing loaf of bread. The ragged plastic bag. The happy dog.
The evidence is clear: Your dog has enjoyed an epic counter-surfing session.
Dog Ccounter surfing—the act of taking food from countertops without approval—can be a difficult habit to change. One successful attempt can turn any dog into a counter-surfing addict. For food-driven dogs, an errant crumb is all it takes to inspire maneuvers you never dreamed were possible.
While man’s best friend’s countertop escapades may be humorous, counter surfing is no laughing matter. It’s a dangerous—not to mention highly destructive—practice that can cause illness and injury to your dog. Your dog could eat something toxic, such as chocolate, or get hurt in their acrobatic quest for a forbidden treat.
Thankfully, there are several things you can do to prevent counter surfing and let your dog know it’s not appropriate.
Put away food
This may be the most obvious, effective way to prevent counter surfing. After all, your dog won’t find much fun in it when there’s nothing to be gained.
For most dog parents, storing countertop foods in sealed containers (away from countertop edges, of course) will do the trick. For others, a sealed container is simply an obstacle—one that’s no match for a determined dog. In this case, it’s a good idea to store all foods in a secured cupboard or pantry.
Keep countertops clean
A used napkin may be enough to entice your dog to counter surf. Always clean up spills, dispose of food packaging, and keep dirty dishes off of countertops. And don’t forget to put away knives and sharp kitchen utensils. Your dog could inadvertently knock these down during a counter-surfing attempt.
No dogs allowed in the kitchen
If clearing your countertops of food and food-related clutter isn’t an option, consider using a pet safety gate to keep your dog out of the kitchen. If your dog is crate-trained, crating them while you’re away may be the best option—especially if they’re adamant about exploring your countertops.
If you happen to catch your dog hanging ten on the countertops, redirect them to something you do approve of. Ask for a “sit”, when your dog responds, praise and lead your dog away from the kitchen and be sure to give lots of praise. Never force your dog off of an elevated surface—doing so could cause him to fall or slip plus you are not teaching your dog anything.
It’s important to redirect your dog ideally before an inappropriate behavior starts, which, for counter surfing, could be the moment your dog begins to inch the nose up to your countertops. In any type of training, it’s important to be consistent. Praise the behaviors you approve, ignore or redirect the unwanted behaviors.
Is your dog mentally fulfilled?
All dogs need physical and mental exercise. If you’re dog isn’t getting enough, boredom may be the cause of their counter surfing. Be sure to take your dog on daily walks, and keep them mentally stimulated with chew toys. Toys that make your dog “work” for their treats (such as food puzzles) are a good option.
In addition to these tips, consider this: Is your dog getting the nutrition they need? If not, a lacking diet may be fueling their counter-surfing desires. Be sure to ask your veterinarian about your dog’s dietary requirements.