How to Stop Your Dog From Counter-Surfing: 3 Methods for Pet Parents in Need

When it comes to training your dog, veterinarians say that teaching alternative behaviors and staying consistent is key.

Rayna Skiver - Author

Mar. 26 2024, Published 12:42 p.m. ET

Black and white dog standing on two legs with paws on a white countertop.
Source: ISTOCK

Does your pup love to get into trouble? It’s not unusual for young or old dogs to enjoy the occasional counter-surfing session. It doesn’t matter if they’re trying to snag a sweet treat or snooping around — this behavior is more than impolite; it can be dangerous. Stick around to learn how to stop a dog from counter-surfing using three simple strategies.

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Manage the environment.

Two dogs with their paws up on the top of an indoor dog gate.
Source: ISTOCK

Most dogs struggle with temptation. For example, if a puppy has easy access to peanut butter, they will probably eat it. Even the most well-behaved dogs might have a hard time resisting.

This is why managing the environment is one of the first things you should do when trying to get a dog to stop counter-surfing, according to @progress_4_paws, a dog trainer on TikTok. If you have food on the counter, your pup will see that as an invitation.

Always clean up after meals and never leave food or treats out on the counter. This will help eliminate your dog’s urge to check out the counters.

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Another way to manage the environment is to add a gate. This strategy makes the space inaccessible and sets a clear boundary. Over time, your dog will learn that the kitchen is off-limits.

If these simple techniques aren’t effective, the dog trainer jokingly points out that you can always get a smaller dog. After all, it’s pretty hard to counter-surf if they can’t even reach the counter in the first place.

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Try practicing an alternative behavior.

A small white dog laying in a dog bed near the kitchen.
Source: ISTOCK

Sometimes, managing the environment isn’t enough. When you have a real troublemaker, you might have to implement alternative behaviors. According to Preventative Vet, this strategy involves a pet parent teaching their dog to practice an ideal behavior instead of counter-surfing. The goal is to make the alternative behavior more rewarding.

For example, when your dog jumps on the counter, you could tell them to sit or go to bed. If they listen, you can reward them with a treat. Over time, the alternate behavior will (hopefully) become more enticing than counter-surfing.

Remember, it’s important to be patient. It will take time for the new behavior to become a natural part of your dog’s routine.

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Stay consistent.

A dog looking to their owner for instruction while playing inside.
Source: ISTOCK

Let’s be honest, just like our dogs, we give into temptation sometimes, too. It can be incredibly challenging to resist adorable puppy eyes or a paw on the leg, but you have to stay strong.

It’s easier for your pet to learn a new behavior when you always have the same response. Eventually, they will know the drill! By allowing bad behavior to go unchecked now and then, the learning process will take a lot longer. It helps to get everyone in your household involved, according to the American Kennel Club.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what strategies you implement if you don’t stay consistent. Even the best techniques in the world will fail if you don’t practice them regularly.

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