What Can I Do To Keep My Dog Off The Table And Counter?

5 01 2009

counter-surfingSome folks that Mom knows sent me an e-mail about their Golden Lab, Marley (just like the movie).  Below is the text of the response I sent them.

Marley, Marley, Marley, a retriever after my own heart!  We can certainly be a crazy bunch.  Mom tells me that you are driving your Mom and Dad bonkers with your counter-surfing.  Marley, have you seen the movie “A Christmas Story”?  Did you happen to notice how unhappy everyone got when the neighbor’s dog came over and counter-surfed the turkey away?  Well, I do not want to see a fellow retriever turned into the Bumpus’ dog.

Marley’s Mom and Dad…  To help Marley curb his counter-surfing, make sure that you keep everything pushed back as far as possible from the edge of the counter.  Once you have accomplished that, we can try some experiments to keep Marley from returning to the counter.  All of these experiments may not work for all dogs, but we should find something that works for Marley.

Experiment #1:  Put some double-sided tape on the six inches closest to the edge of the counter top.  Then, place something that Marley would really like to sneak off with, like a piece of bread farther back on the counter, so that Marley has to have some paw contact with the tape.  Usually, we do not like sticky things to come in contact with our paws.

Experiment #2:  Cover the entirety of the counter top with aluminum foil and place something tempting on top of it.  The feeling we get when our nails and paws is something we do not like to have contact with.

Experiment #3:  Place something tempting at the back of the counter and tape down some blown-up balloons in front of it.  Now , you have created an obstacle where your dog has to move the balloons to get to the tempting item.  Big ol’ retriever paws will make balloons POP!  I know this from a first-hand experience from when Mom taught me not to be on the counter.  I did not like the noise when the balloons POPPED.

Experiment #4:  I heard a story about a lady that sprinkled black and red pepper all over her counter and on the tempting item placed at the back of the counter.  When her dog tried to get to it, the dog ended up sneezing a lot.  I heard that he became a Georgia Tech fan after that.

Experiment #5:  This the time consuming remedy.  You will have to place your dog on a leash and be present with him in kitchen.  Place a goody on the counter towards the back.  While you are in the kitchen, ignore your dog, but whenever the dog approaches the counter that houses the goody, correct him by stepping on the leash and using the “OFF” command.  Praise your dog when your efforts and his obedience are a success and give him a treat.  With this experiment, you MUST practice this a lot.

All of the experiments use household items that you probably already have lying about the house.  If you feel that you must buy something from your local pet store to remedy the situation, there are some devices you can purchase that will alert you when your dog gets on the counter.  Also, there is a device that looks like a mouse trap.  If you decide to go with either of these routes, make sure that you purchase them from a store with an easy return policy and return them if they do not work for your situation.

Like many things I have discussed, counter-surfing is a learned behavior.  Dogs learn that if they can get on the counter, there is usually something good there to be had.  The good news is that learned behaviors can be corrected.  You have to be tough, and you can not give up on any method too soon.  Everything I have suggested has a chance of working, since they depend on what your dog dislikes most.  There are times where it is best to restrict your dog’s access to the kitchen area through a gate or extreme supervision.

You can teach Marley not to come into the kitchen unless invited.  This means teaching Marley to “WAIT” at the kitchen door and when you invite her in, you can give her a treat.  Of course, if she breaks the “WAIT” before you release her, you will have to start over.  Many people use baby gates in the doorway to restrict access to certain areas of their home.

Remember that retrievers are pretty smart and have a tendency to act like puppies until they are 3 to 5 years of age.

Marley, I look forward to hear nothing but good things from your parents after you guys conquer this counter-surfing issue.

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One response

7 01 2009
Petey's Mom

Thanks for these tips. Our problem is a beagle, but he still tries to clean our dinner table for us, whether we have finished eating or just started and briefly stepped away to fetch the A1 sauce.

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