What’s the Most Effective Technique for Teaching a Dog to Stop Counter Surfing?

April 17, 2024

Dogs are inherently curious creatures. Their sense of smell is thousands of times stronger than ours, and they’re naturally inclined to investigate their surroundings. When this behavior extends to the kitchen counter, it becomes a problem known as counter surfing. This is when your furry friend jumps onto your kitchen counter to grab a snack or investigate an interesting smell. This behavior is not only dangerous for the dog, who could consume something harmful or injure themselves, but it can also cause a great deal of inconvenience and mess for you. Today, we will delve into the most effective techniques to teach your dog to stop counter surfing.

Identify and Understand the Behavior

Before diving into training techniques, it’s crucial to identify the behavior and understand why your dogs are doing it. Counter surfing is not a sign of a bad dog; it’s a sign of a motivated and curious one. In most cases, dogs resort to counter surfing because they’re attracted to something they smell or see on the counter. By identifying the potential triggers and understanding the motivation behind the behavior, you can make suitable changes to discourage it.

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One of the first steps is to assess what’s drawing your dog to the counter. Is it food? Or perhaps an interesting object that catches their eye? Once you have this information, you can manage the environment effectively to help curb this behavior. For example, if food is the motivator, ensure edibles are stored away securely and out of your dog’s sight.

Implement Preemptive Measures

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when dealing with counter surfing. A crucial part of teaching your dog to refrain from the counter is to eliminate the opportunity for them to do so. This involves making the counter an unattractive or inaccessible place for your pup.

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You can take several measures to do this. Removing food items or intriguing objects from the counter is an effective strategy. You can also use barriers such as baby gates to restrict your dog’s access to the kitchen when you’re unable to supervise them. Additionally, make sure that your dog is well-fed and has enough physical and mental stimulation. A bored or hungry dog is more likely to indulge in counter surfing.

Employ Training Techniques

Once you’ve established a preventative environment, you can proceed to actual training. Training your dogs to cease counter surfing involves reinforcing good behavior and teaching them to associate the kitchen counter with being off-limits.

The ‘leave it’ command is one of the most recommended dog training techniques for this issue. When your dog shows interest in the counter, firmly say, ‘leave it.’ Once your dog disengages and looks away from the counter, reward them with a treat and praise. With consistent practice, your dog will associate the command with the action of not jumping onto the counter.

Another effective method is teaching your dog to go to a designated ‘place’ on command. This ‘place’ could be a dog bed, mat, or any designated area where your dog can sit or lie down. Whenever you’re in the kitchen, command your dog to go to their ‘place’. Over time, your dog will learn that they should be in their ‘place’ and not on the kitchen counter.

Persist with the Training

Consistency is key in dog training. Dogs learn through repetition and reinforcement, and it might take some time before your dog fully understands that the counter is off-limits. The important thing is to remain patient and persistent.

Ensure everyone in the household follows the same rules and uses the same commands to avoid confusing your pup. If your dog does manage to swipe something off the counter, don’t punish them after the fact. Dogs don’t understand punishment that isn’t immediate. Instead, use the opportunity to reinforce the ‘leave it’ command and redirect their attention.

Consult a Professional

If your efforts are not yielding results or if your dog’s counter surfing behavior is persistent and problematic, it may be time to consult a professional dog trainer. A professional can provide a fresh perspective, identify any areas of weakness in your training, and offer techniques tailored specifically to your dog’s temperament and needs.

Remember, teaching a dog to stop counter surfing is not a quick fix. It requires time, patience, and a lot of understanding. With the right attitude and approach, you can help your dog break this habit and ensure a safer and cleaner kitchen for everyone.

Use Deterrent Devices

Deterrent devices are another effective technique in teaching your dog to avoid the counter. These tools can help reinforce the idea that the kitchen counter is off-limits and can be particularly useful when you’re not around to provide immediate correction.

One common deterrent is a scat mat. This device gives off a mild electric shock when stepped on, similar to the static electricity shock you might receive from touching a metal object after walking on a carpet. The shock isn’t harmful to the dog, but it is unpleasant enough to discourage them from returning to the counter.

Another option is to use mouse traps. Not in the conventional sense, of course, but by setting them upside down on the counter. When a dog jumps up and touches the trap, it snaps shut, creating a loud noise that startles the dog without causing any harm. This sudden noise can effectively deter a dog from jumping onto the counter again.

Remember that deterrent devices should never be used as a punishment, but as a training tool. The goal is not to scare or hurt your dog but to create a negative association with counter surfing. The aim is to instill an understanding in your dog that the kitchen counter is an off-limits zone.

Introduce Alternative Behaviors

Teaching a dog alternative behaviors can also be effective in curbing counter surfing. This essentially involves giving your dog something else to do that is incompatible with jumping on the counter.

For instance, you can train your dog to sit or lay down on command. If your dog is sitting or laying down, they physically can’t jump on the counter. Reward your dog for performing these behaviors, especially when they do so in the presence of food on the counter.

Another alternative behavior is to teach your dog to fetch a toy. This can distract them from the temptation of the kitchen counter. If they’re busy playing with a toy, they will be less likely to pay attention to the food counter.

The key to teaching alternative behaviors is consistency. It’s important to always reward your dog for choosing the alternative behavior over counter surfing. This will reinforce their good decision-making and, over time, make it the preferred choice.


Counter surfing can be a frustrating and potentially hazardous habit. However, with patience, consistency, and the right techniques, it’s entirely possible to teach your dog to avoid the kitchen counter.

Start by understanding the behavior and implementing preemptive measures. Use effective training techniques like the ‘leave it’ and ‘place’ commands, and don’t be afraid to use deterrent devices or teach alternative behaviors. And remember, if you’re struggling, it’s okay to reach out to a professional for help.

In the end, the goal is not just to stop counter surfing, but to create a safer and happier environment for both you and your furry friend. Remember, a well-behaved dog is a happy dog—and a happy dog makes for a happy home.