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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Counter Surfing Part 1 - Management; Positive Reinforcement

Dogs are natural scavengers. It's quite normal for them to find food and eat it. Dogs are also opportunistic. If they know food is usually at a certain place, they will return to that place in search of more food.

So it's not surprising that a dog is who is tall enough or resourceful enough would surf counters. Food is either on the counter or has been in the past. It's not about stealing from the guardian, nor dominance. It's just a natural instinct to find food and eat it.
The easiest way to deal with counter sufing is to not have anything on the counter.
You can't take food that is not there
If the counters are always clean, they are no longer attractive.
If keeping the counters clean is not doable or if the dog surfs clean counters, another option is to block access to the kitchen.
This can be done with baby gates or opened exercises pens. We also need to make sure there is nothing close to the counters that will give a dog a leg up. Or if you have a super smart dog, make sure there are no chairs or other boosting items anywhere in the vicinity.
See some other ideas here:
Pet guardians can also keep their eyes on their dogs at all times. Calmly and positively redirect away from the kitchen as necessary.
For those who want to tackle the behavior using positive reinforcement, here are some ideas
- Get the dog a super comfy bed or crate. Make the crate or bed the best place in the world to be. Teach the dog how to love the crate or bed in teeny tiny increments. Then whenever the dog is on the bed, treats happen (or something else great). Eventually the crate or bed will be way more valuable to the dog than the counter. For this to work the counter will need to be clean during the training. Or else the dog will self reward by taking food off the counter.
-Teach the dog how to stay behind an invisible barrier (using only positive reinforcement). Once again, the counter needs to be clear while you teach this, then you will need to proof the behavior by training when low value stuff is there; then slightly higher value and so on. But it's way easier to just put food away. And there's always a chance the dog might cross the invisible barrier to get to food.
For information, Google "clickersolutions crate traiing"; "youtube kikopup crate training"; 'youtube kikopup invisible barriers"

Stay tuned for more on counter surfing. Future posts will be here:

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