How to Stop Your Dog from Counter Surfing

Manage the Environment

Keeping the environment clean and free of food is crucial in preventing counter surfing. Counter surfing, common among dogs, particularly larger breeds, involves the dog standing on its hind legs to reach food or items on the kitchen counter. Preventing this behavior starts with managing the environment effectively.

Clean Up Crumbs and Wipe Down Counters

One of the simplest and most effective ways to deter counter surfing is to maintain a clean kitchen. Crumbs and food residues on the countertops are a major attraction for dogs, and they will persist in this behavior if they are consistently rewarded with tasty finds. Here are some actionable tips:

  • Wipe down counters after every meal prep: Use a damp cloth or disinfectant wipes to clean any food particles or spills immediately.
  • Sweep or vacuum regularly: Make it a routine to sweep or vacuum the kitchen floor daily to prevent food crumbs from accumulating.
  • Use sealed containers: Store food in cabinets or sealed containers so that the scent doesn’t tempt your dog to surf the counters.
  • Dispose of trash properly: Ensure that your trash can is secured with a lid to prevent your dog from rummaging through it.

Crate or Gate Off the Kitchen

Crate training or using baby gates can be very beneficial in preventing access to the kitchen during meal prep. This method involves limiting your dog’s access to areas where they shouldn’t be, especially when you’re not able to supervise them directly.

  • Crate training: Crates provide a safe and secure place for your dog and teach them to be calm and patient. Ensure the crate is comfortable and make it a positive experience with toys and treats.
  • Baby gates: Place gates at kitchen entry points to create a defined barrier. This prevents your dog from accessing the kitchen unsupervised, allowing you to prepare meals without interruption.

Train Your Dog

Training is an essential element to prevent counter surfing. Commands like “leave it” and “off” are particularly effective in curtailing this behavior. These commands, coupled with positive reinforcement, help deter your dog’s interest in kitchen counters.

Teach the “Leave It” Command

Teaching the “leave it” command is a powerful way to encourage your dog to ignore food or objects that are off-limits:

  1. Start with a treat in each hand: Show your dog one hand with a treat and say “leave it.” Let the dog sniff but not take it.
  2. Reward with the other treat: When they pull back, reward them from the other hand. Repeat several times.
  3. Increase the challenge: Gradually increase the difficulty by placing the treat on the floor and covering it with your hand. Say “leave it” and reward once they obey.
  4. Practice regularly: Consistency is key. Practice this command in various situations to reinforce the behavior.

Teach the “Off” Command

The “off” command instructs your dog to get down from elevated places such as counters:

  1. Use a leash: Attach a leash to your dog and guide them off the counter while saying “off.”
  2. Reward immediately: Once all four paws are on the ground, reward them with a treat.
  3. Repeat as necessary: Continue practicing this command until your dog consistently responds.
  4. Increase independence: With time and practice, your dog will learn to associate the command with getting down and will obey even without the leash.

Use Corrections and Deterrents

Sometimes, corrective measures and deterrents are necessary to effectively address counter surfing. These methods can serve as sensory reminders to dissuade your dog from jumping onto counters.

Attach to a Table Leg

Attaching your dog to a table leg using a leash can serve as a physical deterrent:

  • Short leash attachment: Use a short enough leash that allows your dog to move around comfortably but prevents them from reaching the counters.
  • Supervise closely: Always keep an eye on your dog to ensure they don’t become distressed or tangled.

Use a Penny Bottle

A penny bottle can serve as a sound-based deterrent to catch your dog off-guard:

  • Make a penny bottle: Fill an empty water bottle with a few pennies.
  • Use with the “no” command: When your dog attempts to counter surf, shake the bottle and say “no” firmly.
  • Consistency: It’s crucial to use this method consistently to establish a clear association between the behavior and the correction.

Use E-Collars

Electronic collars (e-collars) offer a more advanced correction method but must be used with caution:

  • Professional guidance: Seek advice from a professional dog trainer before using an e-collar to ensure correct usage.
  • Monitor behavior: Use the collar’s vibration or beep settings initially. Avoid using shock mode unless absolutely necessary and as a last resort.
  • Frequent checks: Regularly check the collar for fit and relieve pressure points to prevent discomfort or injury.

Supervise and Be Consistent

Supervision and consistency are vital in preventing counter surfing. Being vigilant allows you to correct your dog’s behavior immediately, reinforcing that counter surfing is not acceptable.

Keep a Leash on Your Dog

Keeping a leash on your dog even indoors can be highly effective:

  • Immediate correction: A leash allows you to quickly correct your dog’s behavior if they attempt to counter surf.
  • Guided control: Use the leash to lead your dog to their designated area if they start approaching the counter.

Ensure Consistent Supervision

Consistency is critical in reinforcing the desired behavior:

  • Rotate supervision duties: If you’re in a household with multiple members, assign supervision duties among everyone.
  • Engage in regular practice: Consistently practice the “leave it” and “off” commands to reinforce them over time.
  • Set up a schedule: Maintain a schedule for feeding and bathroom breaks to keep your dog engaged and minimize their interest in counter-surfing.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement training can help teach your dog to leave the counter alone. This approach is based on rewarding good behavior, making it more likely that your dog will repeat it.

Reward with Treats

Providing your dog with treats for good behavior is an effective way to reinforce positive actions:

  • Choose high-value treats: Opt for treats your dog prefers more than the food on the counter, such as small pieces of cooked chicken or special dog treats.
  • Immediate rewards: Reward within a few seconds of the desired behavior to create a solid connection.
  • Consistent rewards: Be consistent in rewarding your dog for not counter surfing, so they understand that good behavior is consistently praised and met with positive outcomes.

By integrating these approaches and continually practicing them, you can effectively train your dog to avoid counter surfing, ensuring a peaceful and clean kitchen environment.


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