By Karen A. Soukiasian
You are probably thinking, “Well we don’t live in a cave, and it’s been ages since we’ve tossed out a wooly mammoth rib…so why is my dog counter surfing?” The answer is simple…it’s an inappropriate behavior, which has developed into a bad habit.
It is frequently a very self-rewarding endeavor to your dog! More times than not, there is something well worth the effort exerted and the risk of their owner’s wrath if caught.
Because it is self-rewarding, it is also one of the most difficult behaviors to modify.
The best means to end it is to prevent it from even starting! That requires obedience training, leadership skills and canine management. An obedient dog will respect you and your boundaries; be it a couch, chair, bed, table or counter. You are in control. The second way is by managing any potential problem situation, especially counter surfing or trash diving. YOU must control your dog’s behavior BEFORE it becomes a problem.
Let’s face it…dog’s aren’t stupid! They associate tables and counters as sources of food because they see us preparing and eating at tables and counters. If food is left within their reach, who really is to blame when they make a stealth sneak attack?
It is usually easier to teach puppies boundaries, than it is older dogs. However, even older dogs can be taught to stay off tables and counters. Enroll in a positive reinforcement, punishment-free Puppy Kindergarten or Basic Obedience training course. It never hurts to learn the leadership skills you will need.
Keep counters and tables clear of any reason to investigate. If your dog does not find anything up there worth the attempt, usually they won’t bother to take a crack at it.
There are numbers of ways to discourage your dog from surfing counters and table. For such behavior problems, the most common method applied is called aversion therapy. Aversion therapy is a controlled situation, which uses unpleasant stimuli to modify an inappropriate behavior. Electric shock collars, citronella spray collars, shaker cans with coins, spray bottles, buzzer pads, and lots of other fancy gadgets are forms of aversion therapy.
There is a way that works the first time, most of the time. None-the-less, with certain persistent dogs, you may have to do it a few times. It is an unpleasant and harmless stimulus. It gets a dog’s attention immediately, and more often than not, they don’t forget it!
Begin by getting a few large glue board rat pad traps from a local grocery, feed or hardware store. They are inexpensive and non-toxic.
Next, line the counter or table with the glue board traps. Place something extremely enticing beyond the trap, just out of your dog’s reach. The objective is to lure the dog to the counter or table, and surprise them in such a way; won’t be drawn to surf for snacks or other rewards. They will no longer associate good things are up there, just waiting to be snatched!
Then wait patiently. Sooner or later your canine crook will be tempted to scope out whatever smells delightful up there. As soon as their feet hit the glue board, they will be in for an unexpected surprise! No question, you will hear them!
Do not rush to their rescue, unless you believe they may hurt themselves. The struggle with the pad stuck to their feet, is part of the unpleasant experience. The experience must be disagreeable enough to modify their behavior.
When it’s time to “rescue” them, gently peel the board off…and remove any glue by wiping the pads of their feet with a piece of paper towel soaked with mineral oil.
Bottom line: The best thing about this method is, they have no way to associate you with the ghastly experience! To your dog, you are the good guy who came to their rescue!!
Reinforce that belief by lavishing lots of praise to your dog, EVERY time they are behaving appropriately in the kitchen.
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