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Counter Cruising - Dogs that Jump
By Dea Jaffey
Several of my students have asked how to manage a dog that jumps on the counter when the owner is either in or out of the room, and clears all the contents. Owners try to put the contents on the counter to the back but the dog finds a way to remove any thing that is left on the counter. The dogs seem to grow front paws that have extensions that reach to the back of the counter.
A dog in its natural state is a food scavenger. It will eat many items that we as humans would deem totally inappropriate. I would not eat the foil cover to a polident tablet, or cellophane on a bag of popcorn. My puppy thinks these items are fair game.
There are several methods that could be utilized to get the behavior you want. The First experience has the most power to change behavior. When a dog is rewarded with the food off of the counter, he is strongly motivated to continue.
- Try leaving a high value tasty tidbit on the counter’s edge – put 3-4 empty pop cans that have pennies in them (tape the cans shut with duct tape) on top of a sheet of newspaper. When the dog’s paws reach for the tidbit, the cans fall down first and startle the dog. This will also alert you that the dog is clearing the counters.
- There are even devices called snappy trainers that have large rubber bases with a snap mechanism similar to a mousetrap that could be left on the counter.
- A personal alarm system can be bought at a local Radio Shack store that has a pin in it that is removable or a button that can be pushed to sound an alarm. You can watch from around a corner, waiting for the dog to get on the counter. This loud device usually deters many dogs, coupled with a loud No! Then give the dog a behavior that it can do; something that you can praise. Perhaps a sit, then when the dog does that, mark and reward.
- If the above does not get desired results try this: set up the counter, go around the corner of the kitchen, have a towel that is folded in half lengthwise, roll it into a tight cylinder, and put rubber bands at the end of the towel. Launch the towel toward the dog’s head when the front paws are on the counter. After the towel strikes the dog in the face with enough force to startle the dog, then you can give the dog a behavior that it can easily do. Mark that behavior, and reward.
- A correction that the dog perceives as coming from the owner is only going to reinforce to the dog that when he is counter surfing, it is not safe when the owner is around. A correction when the owner is not in the room works better, as it seems to come from outer space.
If the above suggestions do not work for your situation, then I suggest you totally manage the problem.
- The dog cannot get into the kitchen, because it is baby gated out.
- The dog is never allowed into the kitchen, it is taught a down stay whenever you are in the kitchen. This way the dog does not get under your feet, while you are cooking, and a potential hazard to the dog is avoided.
- A "place cue" can be taught, i.e. go to your rug, and that is the ONLY place in the kitchen where the dog gets any treats. This can work well if you are chopping veggies, or meat, to keep dogs out from under foot. They lie in their special place and a treat comes to them occasionally. They only get the treat if they are on their "place".
- The dog is on a house line, so that you can easily pick up the line and get the dog off the counter. Again if you do this, you need to give the dog a behavior that it can perform so you can mark that behavior and reward it.
If you feed kibble to your dog, try taking a small handful of kibble, or treats and disperse them around the house for the dog to forage and find. This may distract the dog away from the counters. Also a treat ball that dispenses food as it is rolled on the floor by the dog will give the dog an outlet for his behavior to forage for food.
Basically we need to manage the dog, keep it very busy, or give it a behavior it can do easily and we can reward that good behavior.
Written for Companion Dog Club Beginners class 2002 - Copyright © Pat Scott