Tips to Stop Dogs From Countersurfing and Stealing Food Off Counters

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 9, 2017

Charlie is a nine-year-old Wheaten Terrier who lives in Omaha with four-year-old Hobbes. Their guardians set up a dog behavior training session with us to stop getting up on the counters (aka countersurfing) and find out why Hobbes has attacked Charlie a few times in the car.

When I sat down with the guardians to discuss things, there were two dog behavior problems that made them reach out to find a dog behavior expert; counter surfing (stealing food off counters) and a few fights between the dogs when confined in the car.

I jumped right in and offered a number of ways to stop counter surfing for good. You can get these free dog behavior tips by watching the video below.

Now that the humans know how to stop countersurfing, I was ready to address the more serious issue; the infrequent fights between Hobbs and Charlie.

A big contributing factor is almost assuredly Hobbes’ insecurities. Its usually the more insecure dogs who have aggression issues so I asked a number of questions about Hobbes and the dogs day to day lives. This is when I learned the dogs had little structure. A lack of rules and boundaries is ok with some dogs, but when you have multiple dogs, it becomes more important. Additionally herding breeds have a tendency to push and text boundaries and authority more than other breeds.

I suggested that they start Petting with a Purpose to avoid petting Hobbes when he is insecure which will enhance his insecurities. I also recommended they use passive training to reward desired actions and behaviors. This is positive dog training at its simplest.

An exercise I also shared with them was teaching the dogs to focus. This is a great way to redirect your dog’s attention. When used before a dog gets too excited or worked up, its a very reliable way to stop them before they can get into trouble.

A big contributing factor was the humans petting of Hobbes when he was anxious, nervous or scared. This is a common mistake many people make. But anything your dog is doing when you pet it is what you are enchasing. So each time they petted him when he was nervous, anxious, fearful or insecure, they were rewarding the exact thing they were trying to eliminate.

Another way to help Hobbes feel more secure is to introduce rules and boundaries and enforce them consistently. To help them with this, I ran through the Escalating Consequences I use to disagree with unwanted actions. These will improve the communication between human and dog and will help Hobbes see his humans in an authority position; reducing his overall anxiety.

Confined spaces can be more challenging for dogs. Combine a confined space with an insecure and excited dog and a dog fight isn’t that unusual. Fortunately this had only happened a few times.

Refraining from petting him when fearful along with changing the leader follower dynamic through rules and structure should help Hobbes relax and stop being so insecure. But in the mean time, I suggested the humans separate the dogs in the car temporarily to stop dog fights in the future.

Because Charlie gets worked up in the car, bouncing around, I suggested they use a dog seat belt. Now anytime you introduce something that is restrictive to a dog, its a good idea to introduce it positively and teach the dog its a good thing. Training a dog to use a seat belt absolutely falls into that category.

I go over how to introduce it in a good way via positive reinforcement along with a few other dog training tips in the video below.

Another thing I recommended was that the humans start teaching the dogs some new tricks and commands. This pair know more than most dogs I have worked with, but training dogs to do commands that require self control (like balancing a treat on their nose, the stay, etc) can really help Hobbes by increasing his confidence and developing more self control.

We wrapped up the session by shooting a Roadmap to Success video which you can watch below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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