ClickerSolutions Training Treasures

Technique Challenge: Counter Surfing

I pretty much devote myself to keeping my new puppy under supervision for the first nine months of his life.

Whenever I'm in the kitchen, I use the clicker and whatever I'm fixing as treats and work on sits and downs. I try to make being on the floor of the kitchen just about the most wonderful place in the world to be. It only takes a couple of days before the pups are offering to lie down as soon as I go into the kitchen and then I just toss them bits of food every once in a while. I keep one eye on them the whole time and if I see the nose go up, I watch for the gathering of muscles that means we are about to explore and say Leave It! The pup is startled and looks at me, I click and treat. During that time I NEVER leave them unsupervised unless the kitchen countertops are scrubbed clean, the dishwasher door is closed, the garbage can is out of reach. Yes, I have an open kitchen; yes, it's a hassle, but if you can get this groundwork in, you don't have a lifelong countersurfing problem to deal with.

I use basically the same method with the rescued adults I bring into my home. Prevention, supervision and rewarding alternate behaviors. So far, I haven't had rescues countersurf more than a couple of times.

I must admit that I outweigh my pups by quite a bit, so I don't have the problem of them being able to drag me across the room .... anchor her to the couch?

Sidney Hardie
Tucson, AZ


The dog sees food and eats food. If food was never on the counters the dog would quit looking for food on them.

Janet Smith
Good Dog! Training
Okemos, MI


Counter-surfing is a management and training issue. Watch the dog. If you forget to watch the dog, roll up a section of newspaper, secure it with a rubberband, grasp it firmly in your hand and hit YOURSELF on the head repeatedly while saying "I forgot to watch the dog! I forgot to watch the dog!"

Don't ever *ever* leave the young or new dog in the kitchen with food on the counter! Not ever!!! Behavior that is reinforced is most likely to be repeated. This is the First Law of Learning. If the dog finds wonderful food on the counter and gets to eat it, this is a reinforced behavior! Danger! If you can't watch the dog, crate the dog. Crate him or keep him with you. It is as simple as that.

When you are watching the dog, food on counter, dog's nose goes up, ah-ah (disapproving noise)! Give dog a command for something else (sit, down, come, watch me, etc) with tons of treats and positive reinforcement. The dog needs to #1 get the idea that even sniffing for what is on the counter is off limits, and #2 that Mom or Dad have more fun stuff for being on the floor and doing good things.

I currently live with 6 dogs, ages 6yrs - 4 1/2 mos, all of whom understand that stuff on the counter is off limits and far less interesting than me and my tricks and treats! They want to be good because good is fun! If your dog becomes a counter surfer, it is because you allowed it to happen! Don't let bad habits get started! Prevent, prevent, prevent.

Wendy & Glenn Dreyer
Arboretum Australian Shepherds
27 Dunbar Road
Quaker Hill, CT 06375


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