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How to keep a dog off kitchen counters

Posted by Jennifer on February 28th, 2012

Sometimes as a new puppy grows up, they suddenly reach a size where they realize if they stand on their back legs, they can help themselves to those delicious-smelling things you put on the counter for them! Of course you don’t really leave it there for them, but for a puppy or dog to understand that, you have to train them first. Counter-surfing isn’t exclusively a puppy problem either, some adult dogs enjoy counter-surfing too! They might be newly adopted dogs that were never trained to behave politely (or even allowed) in the kitchen, or maybe your adult dog does his counter-snatching only when your back is turned, or you’re not home. Whatever the pup’s age or circumstances, we have some training tips that will help your food-loving pooch keep his paws on the floor where they belong and off your countertops!

1. Put it away
If you have a counter- or trash-surfing dog, the first step in training them is to put it away. That means totally out of reach. You may not want to permanently keep those yummy-smelling (to the dog) sponges or other edible items in a drawer, cabinet, or big heavy screw-top jar at the back of the counter. Think about it: every time your dog jumps up and gets something yummy, that is just like reward-training him TO jump on the counters!

2. Don’t feed them off the counters
Do you fill up their food bowl on the counter? Cut up treats or put treat bags on and then give them treats out of the bags off the counters? Stop doing as much of that as you can! Move where you fill up their food bowl and store their treats out of the kitchen, like to the laundry room, garage, hallway, etc.

3. Positive reinforcement
Whenever you are in the kitchen with your dog, you can randomly reward them for being there with food on the counter when they are NOT jumping up. Work on your sit, stay, and down commands in the kitchen and give them rewards out of your pocket and hands. Practice a sit-stay and then walk towards the doorway out of the kitchen, then do a recall and reward.  Work up to walking out of the kitchen with them on a sit-stay in the kitchen, gradually increasing the length of time they are holding the sit-stay, then coming to you when called for the reward.

3. Negative correction
a.) Active: If you have a counter surfer who jumps up even when you are standing there, make them wear a “drag leash” when they are allowed access to the kitchen. A drag leash is one they drag around all the time – its great for keeping puppies out of trouble. They should only wear one when supervised, so you can untangle them if it gets tangled in a chair or table leg for example. When your dog puts his paws on the counter, firmly but gently pull the end of the leash to get him off the counter and say a firm “no”. We don’t like grabbing a collar as part of a negative correction, that is why we advocate a drag leash. You always want hands reaching for a collar to be a good positive experience.

b) Passive: There are specific devices developed to keep pets off of surfaces, and household items you can also use. You can stack up empty soda cans along the edge of the counter, and when the pet jumps up, the cans will fall making an unpleasant noise. For a very determined counter-surfer, you might even consider pet motion-activated spray cans or even scat mats or snappy traps.

4. Exercise, training, toys
Giving a dog enough exercise every day, doing daily training exercises and giving them food puzzle toys to keep their mind engaged will also help reduce their desire to find something interesting and delicious to explore on your counters!


Humane snappy traps protecting the prize sponge from a big puppy!
They make a ‘snap’ noise deterrent to ward off  pups jumping up.
(Note muddy paw prints on countertop!)

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