Counter Surfing: Can You Beat It?

Training strategies and management options to outwit the wiley counter surfer lurking for that next opportunity.

Did Bridgey really get those muffins? In her dreams! On this day clever humans prevailed and remembered to stash the goodies out of stealthy labbie reach. In actuality, this pic was a stunt for a counter surfing demo. Counter surfing: can you really beat it?  Main perp Bridgey has scored more times than I care to reveal, with her stealth mode M.O. and memory like an elephant. She never forgets a food source.

Case in point: a recent trip to a friends` home (for the first time in a year)  where on arrival, Bridgey beelined it down the basement stairs to the remembered dog food dish. The latter is a huge problem; dogs like Bridgey live by the expectation that the really wonderful score could happen again someday. Given an opportunity, Bridgey never misses. Loaves of bread, leftover pancakes, fruit cobbler, lunch meat: these items are amongst the spoils.

So how does one deter a dog determined to score extra-curricula food sources? All behavior modification must necessarily include management, to prevent rehearsal of the undesired behavior. With counter surfing we might consider:

  •  Dog Gates are wonderful to block kitchen access and tempting foods within reach.
  • Tethers: keep the offending doggy from physically moving into the kitchen. This might be a food preparation time option. (This should be short term only and directly supervised.)
  • Closed doors are never a bad idea.
  • Train all household humans to put food away immediately. Now there is an idea! At some point in time busy humans always goof up though.
  • Keep the hounds in eyesight! A counter surfing maven out of eyesight is never a good thing.
  • Another useful idea: give surfing Sally an interactive Treat Toy to keep her busy and off the counters.
Bridgey sit stay in the kitchen
Counter Surf? Me? Wink Wink

As outlined above, adopting good management strategies is heading in the right direction. Paired with management comes training and reinforcing behaviors incompatible with career counter surfing.

  • Go to Bed: train the surfer to remain on a doggy bed during meals and food prep times.
  • Default down: behaviors that are reinforced constantly become automatic (default) behaviors. Practice reinforcing surfing Sally for down anytime you are near a counter.
  • Stay: progress to Sally in down/stay while you are working in the kitchen.
  • Leave It is always handy to have on cue. Essentially this means I should stop what I am doing (surfing) and pay attention to Mom.
  • Recalls: reinforce the career surfer handsomely for running away from the kitchen and back to you.

So, can counter surfing be beat? Only if you do your due diligence. Attend a class or consult with a Positive Trainer to teach your own surfer better behaviors. Keep in mind though, with a Bridgey in the house, there will be another snatch gulp and run. In my case, given doggy determination and human error, surfing will never be 100 % eradicated. That`s my story and I`m sticking to it. Life with Bridgey has taught me thus.

Follow the adventures of Bridgey on Twitter and Facebook.

Until next Friday, Leslie Fisher PMCT CPDT-KA and the labbies: Bridgey Talley and Doobie

4 thoughts on “Counter Surfing: Can You Beat It?

  1. we have only had 1 dog who was a counter surfer. our vet recommended mousetraps! you set them randomly on the counters upside down (so as to not nip a nose or fingers). only a few “detonations” & no more surfing. the dog learned faster than we did – we kept forgetting the traps were there & set them off ourselves!

  2. Ha, we have all tried our paw at counter surfing, but the Mom has a weapon. She lines up mousetraps on the edge of the counters when we are young and still learning. If we set off one of those traps, we don’t get our snooters or paws caught, but we sure learn our lesson quickly. It only takes a few snaps, then Mom leaves them there unset for a while longer. After that it is much easier and the humans just have to stay alert.

    Great tips in your post.

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  3. Try stopping this behavior when you have a trio that gangs up on you! Hound would sniff out the goodies, Biscuit was too short and not a jumper so she would go get tall Bandit and tell him the situation. He is so tall he just swipes the counter with his nose(no gentle grab and run) and clears everything to the floor and all three have a good time…to include the ever famous greyhound shredding talent for any paperwork left on the counters. Mouse traps..humpf. The noise of falling items doesnt scare him a bit and who can hear the snap over the clatter of everything falling off the counters

    1. LOL great comments can hardly keep up to them. That trio operation does sound a bit tricky. Shredding? Yup, Bridgey has been known to shred a few things, more a function of anxiety. `Nother topic altogether lol. Glad that the tips have been useful. Yes some of our dogs can be very determined to get that good stuff.

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