Learn easy and humane strategies to train your dog to stop counter or table surfing. Simple, easy to follow instructions.
How to Stop a Dog From Counter Surfing
This strategy encompasses prevention and timeouts. If your dog is really excited about what is on the table, he should be on leash. As he gets more consistent and under control, you can drop the leash and then remove it. If you guess wrong, simply go back to using the leash.
Train Your Dog to Leave It
Simply say, "Leave It" ONE time, and then make a noise with your mouth or tap your leg to get him to turn around. As soon as he does, 'click' or say, "Yes" and treat. You should practice on walks, near his food bowl, when he is looking at something out the window, etc. Get him so accustomed to it that he just does it!
I sometimes feel that this sounds more complicated than it is. There is no strategy that is written in stone, but my philosophy involves providing a dog a chance to learn appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. To accomplish this, I will give warnings and then use timeouts. Timeouts are only used for "right" and "wrong" answer responses. Examples include don't chew on the couch, don't jump on the couch, don't put your paws on the table, don't jump on guests, etc.
There is a VERY clear wrong answer. The moment your dog makes the incorrect decision, say, "Timeout". For instance, if you don't want your dog to jump on someone, say, "Timeout" when his paws are touching someone. If you say it when his paws are on the ground, he will probably be confused.
These are very clear "wrong" answers. I do not use timeouts for a dog not listening to obedience. An example of this is "sit". If a dog doesn't sit when I ask, I don't use a timeout. Make sense?
So, I give two warnings and then use a timeout. "Leave It" or "Off" (for jumping) are good warning cues. It is important to reward your dog for listening to you after you use a warning.
After a couple days of warnings, I stop the warnings and immediately use timeouts for the incorrect decision. If he is not "getting it" reward MORE frequently BEFORE he makes the incorrect decision.
Note: "right" and "wrong" is all relative. A dog is not bad or making a wrong decision per se if they jump on a counter. They are just trying to get something off the counter. You can't expect your dog to know what is expected of him unless you teach him.
Counter Surfing Video
Pay Attention to Good Decisions
Make sure you reward frequently for anything but the behavior you want to eliminate. Even if you know your dog wants to jump on the table, keep him on leash and prevent jumping on the table. Reward step-by-step walking up to the table and as soon as he jumps, use a timeout.
Eventually your dog will realize which decisions remove him from all the fun, and which decisions keep him out of the crate or another room. Eventually he will be motivated to do the behaviors that get him treats and freedom.
More Advanced Strategies
As your dog gets more advanced, you can move away from him and use a longer leash, or trail the leash on the floor. If he doesn't listen to "Leave It" when you are a few feet away from him, then you should be holding the leash. Even more advaned strategies involve leaving the room for one second at a time and coming back quickly. When you start to do this, move the treat as far away as possible to prevent a quick snatch.
It is a BIG deal if your dog actually gets something at any point because you will just teach him to be more sneaky and fast. The goal is to make him realize that it does not pay off to try and grab something from a certain location.
You can also use this strategy to train your dog to stay out of a room, leave kid's toys alone, not chew on slippers, etc. Create a boundary around the item or location and reward for not interacting with it, and use Leave It or timeouts for interacting with the object or location.