Imagine this: You’re cooking dinner, and suddenly you turn around to see your dog rummaging through the pots and pans on the counter.
Or maybe you’ve just finished setting the table, and you catch your dog snacking on freshly baked cookies.
Sound familiar? If your dog is a counter-jumper, you know the frustration and anxiety that comes with it. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered here.
Dogs jump on counters because they are motivated by food and may find counter-surfing a fun challenge. To train a dog to stay off the counter, you can stop leaving things on the counter, teach the commands “off” and “leave it,” positively reinforce good choices, and use physical barriers or deterrents.
In this article, I’ll provide a practical training guide for stopping your dog’s counter-jumping habits. By the end of it, you’ll have the tools and techniques to keep your dog safe and your countertops intact.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
The reason dogs jump on counters is rather simple: your food smells delicious! Dogs tend to be very food motivated, an instinct driven by their ancient wild counterparts.
Wolves use their sense of smell to track down their food, such as leftover carcasses from a bear meal to wild elk ready to be hunted. Although our everyday furry friends don’t partake in these animal kingdom antics, certain instincts remain. Scavenging for food is biological and genetic.
It doesn’t matter if your pup is beyond well-fed; they’ll still be rather inclined to take a little nubble off of whatever it is you’re partaking in - especially if they aren’t allowed to! If your pup starts to get away with it, they’ll be more inclined to continue (because they’ve been rewarded for their mischief).
Alongside this, clever dogs consider counter-surfing a fun personal challenge. If your pup isn’t mentally or physically stimulated enough, they’ll find new ways to entertain themselves - and the challenge of obtaining food (or other items) from a counter could be their version of stimulation.
Regardless of why your dog has to validate their counter surfing ways, you shouldn’t allow this kind of behavior to pass.
It can be dangerous, and your pup could access food that can make them very ill. There are a few different things you can do to train and prevent counter-surfing behavior.
When we bring a dog into the household, certain habits must change to accommodate the pup.
As much as a well-behaved dog shouldn’t be surfing the counter, truth be told, preventative measures work better than training or, at the least, should be used in conjunction.
Don’t tempt your dog with leaving something on the counter unattended; instead, develop new habits of not leaving things on the counter.
For starters, you can’t always trust the training inexplicably, and leaving something dangerous (such as chocolate or avocado) on the counter can lead to an unexpected rush to the emergency vet.
Secondly, our dogs really do try so hard to please us - but sometimes, temptations are too great. Don’t put your pup into that position if there is an easy way to avoid it.
Teaching your dog the command “off” is a great way to keep them off the counter.
Encourage your dog to get off the counter by saying “off” and rewarding them with a goodie each time they do so. If you do this often enough, your dog will learn!
Whenever your dog does anything well, remember to celebrate it with a party!
Practice this enough, and you’ll be able to tell your dog “off” from a distance too.
Like training an “off”, teaching your dog “leave it” is a pretty good call.
This is the command you would use if your dog still managed to snatch something from the counter and you didn’t have the chance to use “off”!
To train a “leave it”, place a treat on the floor and cover it with your hand. Ignore your dog as they attempt to get it.
Once your dog gives up, mark the action by saying “leave it” and offer a treat (not the treat under your hand on the floor, offer a different treat! You don’t want your dog to think that they can get what they want when they stop).
After a few times, wait longer before marking the command and offering a treat to your dog.
Next, uncover your hand and command your dog to “leave it”. As your dog ignores the treat on the ground, offer them a treat from your pocket or hand. Do this enough times, and your dog will understand.
Every time your dog listens or ignores the temptation on the counter, be sure to reward that!
Our pups always seek validation for their decisions, so get into the habit of ensuring Fido knows when they’re doing well. You’ll want to continue this your dog’s entire life!
When push comes to shove if the above doesn’t work… you can use a deterrent.
What I mean by a deterrent is a sour taste that your pup won’t fancy, teaching your dog not to counter surf because they simply don’t want the unpleasantry in their mouth.
Various pet products exist that taste sour or otherwise foul to your dog that you can spray on the counter.
These are perfectly safe, just not too fun for Fido! Popular choices include the bitter sprays Sunton and Rocco & Roxie No Chew Spray.
When not home, dogs frequently attempt to sneak onto countertops when humans aren’t around to supervise.
Training your dog to be in a crate when you leave home is an excellent method to prevent naughty counter surfing. A kennel gives your pup their own place and prevents them from having access to the kitchen counter.