Puppies are a lot of fun, because they have so much energy. With inquisitive and curious natures, puppies get into everything.
They just want to explore, and they tend to follow their noses with very little impulse control.
As a result, your puppy may be a little wild at home. They may jump up at guests arriving, climb on top of furniture, and worst of all- counter surf.
They may steal things off of the counter, or take your food straight from the surface.
This can be really frustrating, not to mention dangerous for your pooch if it manages to get up to the counter where cooking utensils or appliances are.
In addition, human food can be very unsafe for puppies.
So, you will want to limit this behavior, and teach your puppy not to counter surf. In this guide, we will show you exactly how to do that!
What Is Counter Surfing?
Counter surfing is a fun phrase that many are now using to describe when a puppy or dog jumps up at kitchen counters, tables, or any other surfaces to get to whatever is on the surface.
Most of the time, this is to get at food, or a potentially interesting item that has been left on that counter.
Dogs may counter surf to steal food from the kitchen counter, especially large dog breeds, as they are able to jump and place their front paws on the counter edge and reach with their snouts to get to something that they shouldn’t!
Smaller dog breeds may climb various surfaces to get on top of the counter to reach whatever it is they are looking for.
Why Do Puppies Counter Surf?
For the majority of puppies and dogs, counter surfing is a means of getting to something that is interesting to them.
Most of the time, puppies will counter surf because they are food driven.
The kitchen counters will often have food or other interesting items on them, which smell different and attractive to dogs. They may jump up to try to get to them.
However, counter surfing is not limited to food. Some puppies and dogs may jump up on the counters to get to their favorite toy that has been put there, or simply because they want to steal items like your freshly washed socks or your mail!
So, why exactly do they do it? Puppies and dogs are very curious about everything around them, so if something smells different or good, then they will try to get to it.
If the item is hard to get at, then they will naturally follow their noises and jump up in order to investigate and find out what it is.
Another reason that counter surfing may occur is because your puppy doesn’t understand boundaries in the home yet, and they cannot control their impulses.
Puppies that are under 6 months old need to be taught boundaries, and need to have their own space so that they do not take over in every single room and do whatever they want.
The issue is that if your puppy has jumped up at the counter, and has been rewarded because they have found a delicious snack, then they will become conditioned to think that this behavior is a positive one.
Why Is Counter Surfing A Negative Behavior?
Counter surfing is a negative behavior because it is an unwanted behavior. You do not want your dog to help itself to anything on the counters and surfaces in your home.
This is dangerous for the dog, and frustrating for you – if you can’t leave your food unattended in your own home.
In addition, if there are no boundaries or rules set for your dog’s behavior in the home, they may think that they can jump up elsewhere.
This could lead to your dog jumping up on furniture such as couches and beds, and they may also jump up on visitors- which some people do not like.
How To Prevent Counter Surfing
The most effective way to prevent counter-surfing is to teach your puppy some boundaries in the home and to train them to manage their impulses.
This can be done by creating a routine, teaching them to go to a specific place when you are cooking, and by taking preventative measures until they are able to control their impulses.
Create A Routine
Puppies most often lash out or misbehave when they do not know what to do with themselves. This is why it is so vital that you establish a routine and schedule for your puppy.
Having a puppy routine means that you have times throughout the day when your puppy can explore, play, and get out their energy, and then you have times when they should be in their crate, bed, or playpen resting.
If your puppy is allowed to free-roam the home, you can bet that they will get into anything and everything that they can. This can lead to counter-surfing.
So, have designated times when your puppy is out of the crate or its bed, and you can monitor them to limit any unwanted behaviors.
Then, once they have been worn out, they can rest in their crate or bed area.
During the rest times, you can do whatever you need to do, such as laundry or cooking dinner without worrying about what your puppy is getting up to.
Teach Your Puppy To Go To Their ‘Place’
Another tip is to teach your puppy to go to its ‘place’ when you are in the kitchen or when you are cooking.
This gives your puppy something to do and to focus on while you are preparing food.
Your puppy will therefore be in its designated space and will not be able to jump up at the counters.
The ‘Place’ command takes some practice, so you may have to start by having your puppy in a harness and on a lead, with the lead attached to somewhere so that they cannot stray too far from their ‘place’.
As always, you should supervise your puppy while it is on a lead, so try having their ‘place’ at the other side of the kitchen, away from you while you prepare dinner.
If your puppy is struggling to focus and stay in its place, then you can try lickmats and puzzle toys like Kongs to give them some mental stimulation while you are busy.
As your puppy learns how to stay in its place, you can remove the lead, and simply reward whenever they stay in their place successfully.
Do this until your puppy learns that they must stay put when you are preparing food in the kitchen.
Have A Safe Area For Your Puppy
As mentioned above, it is a good idea to give your dog a place where they can have a time-out in. This could be a crate or a playpen. This way, they do not have the freedom to roam the house as they please.
Alternatively, you can tether your puppy to you with a lead, or to an object in the room. This limits the space that they are able to roam in.
Some dog trainers believe that puppies should be kept on long leads initially when in the home so that owners can teach them good manners and boundaries.
This limits unwanted behaviors, and your puppy can be permitted to roam when it has learned how to behave inside the home.
How To Teach Your Puppy Better Manners In The Home
Puppies need to be molded and shaped into well-mannered dogs. This can be difficult, but it is not impossible. It just takes time and practice.
The main thing to remember is that your puppy needs to learn how to behave in a home.
This involves practicing impulse control, taking restrictive measures, and giving your puppy something to do to limit bad behaviors.
Practice Impulse Control
The first step is to practice impulse control around food.
This includes your dog’s impulses around their own food, and around your food. You can do this by having your puppy wait before eating their food.
For instance, as you feed your puppy, ask them to sit and wait. Then, slowly lower the bowl to the ground.
If they move to get to the food quicker, lift the bowl back up, and ask them to sit again.
Do this until your puppy can successfully sit and wait for the bowl to be put down, and until you release them.
When your puppy is sitting and waiting, and the bowl is firmly on the ground, you can say a release word such as ‘Yes’ to allow them to eat.
This teaches your puppy to wait until given a command before eating something.
When you are eating your own food, teach your puppy to go to its ‘Place’ and stay away from the table.
When they do, you can reward them with a treat or a few kibbles.
This teaches your puppy that something positive happens when they stay away from you when you are eating, and that they will be rewarded.
You may need to puppy-proof your kitchen while you are trying to train this behavior out of your puppy.
For instance, try not to leave anything near the edge of the counters, or on surfaces that your puppy can reach.
You may also want to apply a puppy gate to the kitchen to block access. This can work as a temporary fix, as this gives your puppy an area where they are allowed and not allowed to go.
Teach Your Puppy To Go To Their Bed During Mealtimes
Finally, teach your puppy to go to their bed or ‘place’ during mealtimes.
This is done by asking them to go to their bed and getting them to sit or lie down there. When they do, reward them, release them, and repeat.
Then, try adding longer pauses and times on the bed or in the place before releasing them, and reward them every single time.
After some practice, you will be able to ask them to go to their bed or place, and you can reward them every time they stay in place!
If your puppy is too young to do this, then a crate or playpen works wonderfully.
To summarize, counter-surfing puppies can be really frustrating as they can steal food from the counters, take objects, and put themselves at risk.
Counter surfing is a natural behavior for dogs, as they are driven by their noses and food drive. However, with some boundaries and impulse control, you can limit this negative behavior.
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