This training tip is provided by Melissa Roton of Villa Rica, Ga. She is an obedience instructor, German Shepherd breeder, dog rescuer – and proud owner of pitbull-mix Gabriel.
We all have counter surfers to some degree. The difference is in how and what the dogs are taught.
First, a “paws off” command helps give you control of your dog’s actions. This is especially helpful when you pair it with “paws on” to have control of both up and down actions.
Next, critical to food surfers is teaching the commands “leave it” or “drop it.”
I teach “leave it” by putting a treat in my hand and placing my hand on the ground with the treat cupped under it. I engage the dog so he knows that the treat is there. I give the command “leave it” in a normal voice. The dog may lick, sniff, paw or scratch to get the treat. Just wait. As soon as the dog stops all the ‘trying to get the treat’ behaviors, give the command “take it” and give the treat to the dog. Praise!!
Repeat about five times. If your timing is exact, “leave it” can be learned in as few as two sessions. I’ve had one dog learn it in one. But the number of sessions is irrelevant because it is a fun and engaging training exercise.
Prevention is also a key. When you catch him in the act of sniffing the counter, divert his attention to something more productive. Give him a better treat or a stuffed Kong in another room to occupy his attention.
Crate your dog or sequester him in another room or in the yard when preparing food. Do not leave food and your dog alone in the room together. Dogs are notorious for being opportunistic scavengers. Make sure your dog is fed a well-balanced diet on a schedule in a set place, preferably not the kitchen. A full dog is not going to counter surf as much as a hungry dog.
I like to grill out and I taught my dogs to leave the grill and food alone by using treats (and tennis balls) and having them search for them around the grass of the porch. So while I was providing the distraction of grilled meat, they were having too much fun searching for what I kept tossing to them!