Many dogs counter surf no matter how well trained they are, but most of what I’ve read does not address why they do it, just the methods you can use to stop them. I believe the reason that many dogs (mine included) counter surf is because they are hard-wired with the instinct to seek food. While dogs have been domesticated for about 15,000 years now, they still have instincts stemming from their wolf ancestors.
If a wild wolf pack is lucky enough to kill an adult moose (which weighs between 1200 and 1800 pounds) they gorge themselves. An adult wolf can eat fifty pounds of meat at one time and the reason they do is because they don’t know when their next meal will be. Not every dog counter surfs, but since they all have this instinct they can be prone to it.
Other reasons given for why dogs counter surf are that they are hungry or bored, have a nutritional deficiency, or simply because it smells good and tastes even better. While some of these reasons make sense, I don’t agree with all of them. I will agree with the smells good and tastes better idea, but my counter surfing dog isn’t bored (we play or walk every day) and she gets plenty of good food to eat. I thought I was a bad owner and she did it just to spite me but then my vet explained about the instinct and it made sense to me.
So, how do you stop your dog from counter surfing? The best way is to prevent the temptation for your dog to do it. Don’t leave your dog alone if there is food on the kitchen counter or table. Teach your dog “off” or “leave it” and make sure to use either command if you catch your dog getting up on the counter or table.
The “penny can” is another method you can try to stop the counter surfing behavior, although in my experience it isn’t terribly effective. Put some pennies in a can and place the can on some food bait or attached to it to so that when the dog grabs the food they will (in theory) be frightened by the noise and run off, leaving the food behind. Although Skye was scared off by the noise, she still grabbed the food and took it with her as she ran out of the room. I have, however, used my “spritz” (a spray bottle filled with water) on her and it works. If I have cooked food I put it in the microwave or oven to keep her from it, and don’t leave the kitchen if I am preparing food.
Special thanks to Vickie’s dog, Tsavo, for posing for this picture!
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