Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Counter surfing: Solved!

Counter surfing  when a dog puts its paws up on a counter and "surfs" along looking to or successfully grabbing things off of the counter.  It's an annoying problem, yet it's very common.

Obviously large dogs can do this with ease.  The biggest problem with counter surfing is that it's self rewarding without anyone even needing to be present.  Rewards work whether we are there to give them to the dog or if they reward themselves.  This is how positive reinforcement works and makes a behavior stronger.  A dog gets something rewarding [to the dog] and that behavior it was rewarded for gets stronger.  This is beneficial when we are training a behavior that we want repeated and stronger, however, not so much if it's a behavior we don't want repeated.

So, how does one remedy this annoying habit?

1) Management  Keep your counters clean. Plain and simple, don't have a lot of stuff on your counters, especially food. Also, prevent your dog from going into the kitchen unsupervised. This might mean baby gates or crating your dog when unable to be supervised.

2) Make the floor yummy  If the floor is where good things are then the counters aren't. Completely control when your dog enters the kitchen.  Prior to entering, sprinkle yummy treats all over the floor.  Then let the dog enter.  As soon as he sees the floor has food he should start to focus on the floor more and less on the counters.

3) Train a "go to mat" cue   Teach Fluffy to go lie on a mat in the kitchen. If and when you cannot watch Fluffy in the kitchen, or your pre-occupied, you can tell her to go lie on a mat (or bed) and stay there.  If she's lying on a mat she cannot be jumping up on counters. This is a great video on how to teach this, and here is another video that's a little different but same thing.
4) Train while in the kitchen, freely walking around.  While in the kitchen you start to toss treats on the floor sporadically.  In the beginning you'll toss treats a lot. Walk-n-toss, walk-n-toss.  If you see your dog raising his head up to sniff the counter, possibly thinking about jumping, immediately toss treats behind him so he'll choose the floor instead. Also, if you see him start to jump or sniff but re-think his choice, toss treats, one at a time (about 6-10 treats) and praise him heavily for making a wonderful choice not to surf! 


TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND
  • Set your dog up to succeed.  This means don't allow your dog a chance to make the wrong choices.  Keep counters clean when Fido is in the kitchen.  Control when Fido enters the kitchen and be sure that the floor is seasoned with goodies!
  • Practice makes perfect! Train this several times a day by setting it up successfully as stated above.
  • Give Fluffy her own place to stay when in the kitchen. Work on the "go to mat" cue, or even get super creative and fancy by having her own dog bed carved away under the counter or kitchen island. (ideas on that here, as well as in picture.)
  • When you cannot supervise or train, put Fido away. Crate Fido in another room or put him somewhere that he cannot get to the counters where this behavior is happening the most.

Stacy Greer
Sunshine Dog Training & Behavior, LLC

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