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Are you living with a counter surfing Doge? If you find that your four-legged friend keeps trying to steal your dinner, then the answer is yes.

Counter surfing refers to canines who jump on counters or dinner tables in an attempt to sneak a bite of human cuisine. It is a dangerous habit that needs to be eliminated.

The good news is there are effective methods to train your dog to avoid counter surfing, so you don't have to be worried about what is on your kitchen table.

Let's explore how to stop counter surfing in your four-legged friend.

dog getting ready to counter surf

Why Do Dogs Counter Surf?

Dogs counter surf for one reason: to get food. Any breed, from Shiba Inus to Beagles, can develop this unwanted habit.

Your dog is smart and can associate where tasty treats come from. If you frequently feed your furry friend from the kitchen table or counter, your pooch will learn that those are food places.

When the coast is clear, the dog will attempt to climb ("surf") on the table or counter and get a bite of something delicious.

When the dog jumps on the table and finds food, he or she is rewarded. The food reinforces the bad behavior and makes it more likely to continue.

Remember: canines are opportunists. It only takes one or two instances of scoring a treat from the counter to keep them coming back for more.

dog eating from counter

The Dangers of Counter Surfing

Counter surfing is more than frustrating - It's dangerous.

A dog doesn't know the difference between a breakfast bar and a hot stove. Your dog could possibly jump up and burn him or herself on a scorching hot stovetop.

Even worse, the dog may hop on the counter and accidentally turn on your stove. An estimated 1,000 household fires in the US are started by pets.

There is a reason we don't share meals with dogs.

Small poultry bones, hot dogs, and hard candies are choking hazards. Human food is unhealthy for a dog's digestive tract and can lead to severe intestinal problems. 

shiba inu puppy standing on table

How To Train Your Dog NOT To Counter Surf

The most effective training method to eliminate unwanted behaviors in your dog is through management and operant conditioning.

According to psychologist B.F. Skinner, operant conditioning is a method in which someone or something learns a new behavior as a response to consequences.

Operant conditioning reinforces desirable behaviors while eliminating bad ones.

Operant conditioning teaches dogs that actions have consequences.

When a behavior comes with a reward, the dog will repeat it. When a behavior is followed by punishment, the dog will avoid it.

Management -

Management is the vital unsung component of successful dog obedience training.

It's not a training method per se, but rather an important step to take to allow your dog the best chance of success. 

Management basically involves "managing" your dog's environment in a way that the dog is not likely to engage in unwanted behavior.

So managing a counter surfing dog would involve blocking access to the counters when your dog is unsupervised. 

Extinction -

Eventually, extinction should kick in. Extinction, paired with operant training should eventually lead to dog that can be trusted not to counter surf when not being supervised.

Negative reinforcement refers to taking away something (extinction) to enforce a positive change and strengthen the desired behavior.

Opportunities lead to theft. To stop counter surfing, remove temptation.

By getting rid of the stimuli (food), you weaken the dog's association with the countertop and food. Place food in sealed containers, clean countertop spills, and wipe away crumbs.

However, don't rush this step.  You need to make sure that your dog has completely eliminated the unwanted behavior before you let your guard down.

dog stealing raw meat from counter

Punishment Through Consequences

Positive punishment adds something that makes the behavior stop.

But positive punishment has disadvantages, which is why it is not a recommended method for counter surfing training.

Too little punishment can be ineffective, but too much punishment causes fear. 

For example, your dog could develop a fear of the kitchen, which creates more problems. In many cases, punishment teaches dogs to only steal food when the kitchen is empty.

Instead, when training your dog not to counter surf - use reinforcement and alternative behaviors to create the desired changes in your canine. 

Reinforcement removes the stimulus that causes counter surfing. In this case, you'd always ensure that your counter is kept spotless and free of tempting food. When you can't manage this environment and food must be left unattended - simply block access to the counter.

Alternative behaviors teach dogs positive actions that distract from counter surfing. So when your dog would usually be tempted to counter surf, instead you'd teach your dog an alternative behavior such as lying on a kitchen mat and rewarding vigorously.

Other alternative behaviors could include simply sitting at attention or grabbing a favorite toy. 

Depending on how ingrained your dog's counter surfing habits are, this training could take a while. But be sure to keep at it as eventually your dog will understand what needs to be done to achieve the "preferred behavior". 

dog stealing whole chicken from countertop

Duration Requirements For Operant Traning

Operant conditioning does not occur overnight.

It requires a lot of time and a lot of patience.

When you first begin training, reward your dog immediately and joyously.

 As the dog becomes more obedient, wait longer between action and reward.

 If you're teaching an alternative behavior, have the dog hold the pose (such as lying down or shaking) for five seconds before offering a reward.

As time passes and the dog learns, wait longer and longer between reinforcing positive behaviors.

Eventually, leave the kitchen with food on the counter for thirty seconds and see if your pup has moved towards the counter. If he is still in position, give a reward.

The longer your dog receives rewards for positive behavior, the less likely he or she will counter surf.

Instead, your pup will associate treats with good habits, like sitting or lying down.

dog stealing won tons from kitchen table

Counter Surfing Summary and Tips

Take action to prevent counter surfing before it begins.If your dog never learns to associate kitchen tables with food scraps, then they are less likely to counter surf.

Remember management. When introducing new puppies to your home, use baby gates to block kitchen access. 

This is especially important for new dogs who are home alone and like to wander.

Keep your kitchen clean and tidy.

Thoroughly wiping down countertops and keeping food stored away will eliminate the temptation of counter surfing. As a bonus, it will also help you maintain a spotless kitchen with fewer bugs.

Finally, avoid feeding dogs from the kitchen table or while cooking. This will prevent your canines from associating stoves, tables, and counters with tasty treats.

If you are giving your pup table scraps, do so carefully.

Place the food in their dog bowl, or only offer human food as a reward for good behavior.

Remember Surfing is Cool, Counter Surfing is NOT

Counter surfing is dangerous, but totally fixable.

Management and training takes time and patience - but in the long run, oh so worth it.

Dog owners can use operant conditioning to eliminate bad behaviors and replace them with desirable ones. 

Looking for more Shiba Inu training tips?  If so, you've come to the right place.

Browse our blog for more informative articles and learn how to effectively train your four-legged friend.

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