Manage the Environment
- Put up gates and/or shut doors to prevent counter surfing when you’re not there
- Push tempting things to the back of the counter where your dog can’t reach or put them in cabinets
Reward What You DO Want!
One way to help your dog make good choices is to give her the opportunity to be rewarded by a behavior you want her to do when she’d normally try to counter surf. “Go to Your Spot” or “Mat Game” are great ways to help her out.
- See the “Go to Your Spot” or “Mat Game” pages for a reminder of how to teach this.
- Once your dog knows “Go to Spot” or “Mat Game, you can use it while you are in the kitchen.
- Reward her often enough that she stays on her mat. (Generally you’ll be able to reduce the number and frequency of treats over time, but start by being generous!)
If Needed, Use an Aversive (Carefully)
Many dogs do great with just management and training as outlined above! That said, counter surfing can be dangerous for the health of our dogs. If you decide it’s the best choice for your dog, you may use a sound/noise in this situation for two reasons:
- Dogs can easily repeat the behavior when you are not home, and thus it’s reinforced.
- The behavior can put your dog at significant risk for ingesting harmful objects/foods and/or breaking objects.
You’ll notice we almost never recommend using punishment, and that’s because it’s much riskier than reward-based training. When using a punishment, the following factors are important:
- Timing: The noise must start within 1-2 seconds of the behavior occurring.
- Consistency: The punishment must occur (very nearly) every time the dog repeats the behavior. (This is why it’s important to be watching vigilantly at first.)
- Effectiveness: The dog should not have to be punished for more than a few short sessions in order for it to work. Nor should the punishment be so severe that the dog shuts down or will not enter the room where it occurred.
- Lack of association with humans: The dog should not know that we are creating the sound. We do not want to weaken the trust our dogs have in us, or make them scared of us.
You might try an ultrasonic device to start. If this is too overwhelming for your dog, stop immediately and let us know. We can try a less scary noise. If it’s not effective enough, also let us know. (Resist the urge to start using it for everything, as she can become desensitized to it and it will stop working.)
- Place a tempting object just out of reach on the counter or do whatever action would normally cause your dog to jump up on the counter.
- As soon as your dog starts to jump, make the sound. The sound should continue until the dog gets down from the counter. Be sure not to let your dog know that you are making the sound.
- Repeat until your dog is no longer showing interest in the object.
- If your dog makes a good choice after looking at the tempting object, reward her!
- If your dog shows excessive fear, stop and let me know. She may need a different noise. If your dog makes more than 5 attempts at the object in the one session, stop and let me know, she will need a different noise. Unlike many other techniques, this one should work very quickly and with just a few repetitions.
- Practice with you in the room and out of the room, spying on your dog. (This way, they learn that the noise comes regardless of whether or not you are there.)
Discontinue immediately if you notice your dog is becoming fearful or have playtimes or training times with treats in the kitchen shortly after these sessions.