How to Get Your Dog to Stop Counter Surfing

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic
Page Light Studios/Shutterstock

Does your dog surf the counters in search of a tasty snack? Counter surfing is a common problematic behavior in dogs, where they jump up on kitchen counters or tables to steal food or other items that would usually be out of their reach. Naturally, that type of behavior is a big no-no, no matter how impressive it is for your pooch to manage to actually do it. Not only that losing perfectly good leftovers is no fun, but most human foods are not good for your pet to eat - some can be downright dangerous. This is why you should make sure to correct this bad habit as soon as you notice it.

Your pet needs to know that counter surfing is unacceptable behavior and that it’s something they can’t do. But how exactly to get your dog to stop counter surfing without having to resort to punishments? Here are some tips and tricks.

How to Get Your Dog to Stop Counter Surfing

The first and most practical tip is to simply cut access to the restricted area – e.g. kitchen counters. Use baby gates,  pet gates, or crate your dog to prevent access to the kitchen, or simply keep a close eye on your dog at all times while they’re in the kitchen and lock the door (if applicable) when you’re not around. If you don’t do anything to prevent access or to monitor your pet’s behavior when they’re in the kitchen, they might take it as a sign to do as they please. 

The next logical step is to remove what tempts them into counter surfing in the first place. Make sure there's no food or interesting items left on the counter when you're not around. This eliminates the opportunity for your dog to steal something. Leaving tasty food right there in the open is just asking for it. Unless your pet is rigorously trained, they will not hesitate to go for it. 

Of course, it goes without saying that unruly dogs are more likely to counter surf than those who are trained. So teach your dog basic obedience commands such as "leave it," "stay," and "off." These commands can be very helpful in controlling your dog's behavior around counters, as well as other similar situations.

That being said, don’t forget to reward your dog for good behavior. When they stay away from the counter or respond to your commands, praise and reward them with treats, toys, or affection. It’s always great to have  tasty dog treats close at hand for positive reinforcement training. Of course, it’s important that you stay consistent in your training and house rules. Make sure everyone in your household follows the same rules to avoid confusing your dog. If one person is strict, the others should be as well.

In some cases, dogs may respond to deterrents like double-sided tape or aluminum foil on the counter. They dislike the texture and will avoid jumping up. Anything similar that you know frightens or deters them can be effective as a “barrier”. Of course, you can always try and teach your dog a command to go to a designated area when you're in the kitchen. Use treats and positive reinforcement to reward them for staying there while you cook or eat. An obedient will sit where instructed, and let you do the work in the kitchen without incidents. 

In the end, if your dog's counter surfing behavior is severe or persistent and none of the above methods help, then consider consulting a professional dog trainer or behaviorist for personalized guidance and training. And don’t be hard on yourself if you end up needing help from the pros – some dogs can be tough nuts to crack and their mischief can be handled only by a seasoned expert!

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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