Dog News

Counter Surfing: Can You Beat It?

by Leslie Fisher

Life With Dogs is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.

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