Dogs and Counter Surfing

Collie Counter Surfing Do you have a dog that, like Lucy in the picture here, gets on the counter and eats anything they can get their mouth on? Lucy will even reach her paw waaaaaay out if she has any hope of reaching something tasty that might be pushed back by the wall. Well this short article will contain suggestions of what you can do to prevent your dog from counter surfing. Of course if you have a small dog it won’t be a problem. And the bigger, less limber dogs, might not have the flexibility to get onto the counter. But medium size dogs are just great at counter surfing.

Prevent your dog from counter surfing to begin with

The old cliche applies here. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. As a matter of fact, and I will tell you this right off the bat, once your dog has learned to counter surf you don’t have much chance of stopping this behavior. Not unless you are very diligent and ever watchful of what you have on the counters, and what your dogs are doing.

Any animal will respond to positive reinforcement. If they do something and are positively rewarded, and especially with food which is a primary reinforcer, they are more likely to repeat the behavior. So once you leave that steak on the counter, or that package of donuts, and the dog gets into them, oh boy watch out. They will look again for the same reinforcement. And it only takes once.

Dogs and Right and Wrong

Many people now believe that dogs have no morals, no sense of ‘right’ vs. ‘wrong’. This doesn’t mean dogs are bad people. It just means they are dogs. Instead of right or wrong, a dog sees the world as either safe or dangerous.

So if you are around when the dog jumps on the counter to eat something yummy, and you are there and correct the dog with a smack or a mean voice (we never support hitting a dog on this website), then the dog will learn that getting on the counter when you are there is dangerous. But getting on the counter when you are not there is safe. Thus, you have created a dog that waits until you are gone to get on the counter (or sofa, this works in other areas too).

Stopping Dogs from Counter Surfing

So you messed up. And now your collie, or border collie, or boxer, or greyhound or whatever mix you may have, has been rewarding herself by jumping on the counter and stealing treats. What is a human to do?

The best bet is extinction. This requires that 100% diligence I was talking about earlier. It basically means never, ever, ever, leave anything for your dog to eat on your kitchen counters. If you do that, then the dogs will give up and stop trying the behavior. However, dogs can go a very long time checking and rechecking. And what if you make a mistake and leave something up there? You start over from day one.

Another way to stop this behavior is to hide. If you can get a squirt of water off, or a snap of a mouse trap, when you are not in the picture, then you might have a chance. You’d have to set the dog up by putting something small and not very valuable on the counter. If you can hide and give her a squirt without her knowing it was you (good luck), then that might work. This is, however, using correction with dogs. Which is something we try to avoid here at Tip Tail. We prefer positive methods of training.

Person or Dog Gives up First?

We have four dogs in our house. Three of them are limber enough to get on the counters. Angel is the only one who is not. And we did not use any prevention at the beginning, I am embarrassed to admit. So what do we do?

We let them counter surf. Our house is for our dogs. We don’t leave anything on our counters that they could be hurt by. My husband even lets Lucy jump up, when he is around, and lick something up that has spilled. What is a woman to do with her husband? Laugh and brush it off. It bothered me at first, but now it doesn’t.

We are careful not to leave pills, food, or anything else on the kitchen counters. That is what we do. We don’t want to hit or yell at our dogs all the time when they are on the counters. That would just make us dangerous and them fearful. So they win this round. But they still know who is boss.

Lucy, actually, has the cutest trick. When I’m cutting up dog treats such as hot dogs or string cheese on the counters, she used to jump up. Well, I wanted to clicker train her to keep her feet on the ground. So whenever her feet would land, I clicked. What did she learn? Well, you can’t have your feet get onto the ground without them first coming up off the ground. So now she has a very cute, sweet, hop that she does at the counter when I cut up treats. And of course I can’t resist giving her some. She’s my sweet baby girl collie. 🙂

[tags]dog training, clicker training, counter surfing, collie, collies[/tags]

28 thoughts on “Dogs and Counter Surfing”

  1. Ohhh, what would Ceasar say 🙂 I’ve been lucky, none of my dogs have ever gotten up on the counters. The 2 I have now are not limber enough, but one is tall enough that his nose just reaches the countertop.

    We did have a cat at one point who loved to counter surf. She would take things bigger than herself, whole chickens, drag them off into a closet and eat them. Once she tried to drag off a pie and ended up dumping in all over herself. It was pretty funny.

  2. Ohhh, what would Ceasar say 🙂 I've been lucky, none of my dogs have ever gotten up on the counters. The 2 I have now are not limber enough, but one is tall enough that his nose just reaches the countertop. We did have a cat at one point who loved to counter surf. She would take things bigger than herself, whole chickens, drag them off into a closet and eat them. Once she tried to drag off a pie and ended up dumping in all over herself. It was pretty funny.

  3. I enjoyed this post. Like most dogs, mine believe that opportunity is invitation. I keep clean counters to avoid both.

  4. I enjoyed this post. Like most dogs, mine believe that opportunity is invitation. I keep clean counters to avoid both.

  5. Well Gracie has the potential to be the BEST counter surfer in the nation! One day I came in from mowing the lawn and found the bag that formally held 7 whole wheat buns. They had been put way back on the counter. Not sure how she ever got to them.

    I had to make her throw them up, so that she wouldn’t clog up. I counted seven distinct globs – TMI!!!! I know!!!!

    Live and learn – I now keep the counters totally clean of ANY food. Cause if she could get to those buns that far back on the counter, who knows what other talents lay hidden and yet undetected, LOL!!!

    Flo – that is too funny about your cat!!! A dog in cats clothing, MOL!!!

  6. Well Gracie has the potential to be the BEST counter surfer in the nation! One day I came in from mowing the lawn and found the bag that formally held 7 whole wheat buns. They had been put way back on the counter. Not sure how she ever got to them. I had to make her throw them up, so that she wouldn't clog up. I counted seven distinct globs – TMI!!!! I know!!!! Live and learn – I now keep the counters totally clean of ANY food. Cause if she could get to those buns that far back on the counter, who knows what other talents lay hidden and yet undetected, LOL!!! Flo – that is too funny about your cat!!! A dog in cats clothing, MOL!!!

  7. Gracie might get the counter surfer award of the year! Yeah they can clog up easily if they eat lots of things like that.

  8. Gracie might get the counter surfer award of the year! Yeah they can clog up easily if they eat lots of things like that.

  9. OMG! Rufus is the KING of Counter surfers! He can get stuff off the top of the fridge too! I actually had to put slide locks on my pantry to keep them out. My guys would actually clean out the pantry (have done so a couple of times) if I didn’t have the locks.

    Great article by the way!

  10. OMG! Rufus is the KING of Counter surfers! He can get stuff off the top of the fridge too! I actually had to put slide locks on my pantry to keep them out. My guys would actually clean out the pantry (have done so a couple of times) if I didn't have the locks. Great article by the way!

  11. Thanks Lora! Oh my dogs have gotten into the cabinets too… fortunately they are usually well closed and they can’t open them by themselves. You have a tricky dog!

  12. Thanks Lora! Oh my dogs have gotten into the cabinets too… fortunately they are usually well closed and they can't open them by themselves. You have a tricky dog!

  13. I never jump up on the worktops or on the sofas, not that I’m an angel. Very good training tips, I just need to stop scavenging in the street!

  14. I never jump up on the worktops or on the sofas, not that I'm an angel. Very good training tips, I just need to stop scavenging in the street!

  15. Lol!

    My mate had a great dane that had to bend his head to get it under the kitchen sink, tap.

    Much bigger than this dog, but hey this dog still looks cool!

    Take care,

    Andy

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  17. Great article Cynthia – I wish I’d seen this earlier when I was having these sort of problems with my Field Spaniel Benton!

    I liked the bit about seeing it from your dog’s point of view and understanding their thought processes, and also using the hide and squirt technique.

    I actually found using a spray collar worked well with this, and I recently made a review of the Masterplus Pro collar which is pretty cool. Check it out if you want.
    .-= Adrian´s last blog ..Masterplus Pro Remote Collar Review =-.

  18. Oh, good to know it’s not just a problem in our house!

    But I must admit, we have smaller dogs ( and therefore shorter legs), so our problem has been more to do with goodies left on the coffee table. You know how it works, you have a late night cuppa and some biscuits and then head off up to bed without clearing up…only to come downstairs in the morning to find out the whole packet of biscuits has been polished off by our four-legged friend!

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