And oh how good my training was! 😯 Effective training is all about good timing, and let’s face it, in this scenario you couldn’t get more perfect with timing. Dog counter-surfs – dog is immediately rewarded. And it’s not just a boring ol’ dog treat, the reward is usually big, like your dinner!
My Weims never counter-surfed until they were older dogs and I had let my guard down. One day I left an open package of cookies on the arm of the couch. Indy found it and gobbled up the rest of the cookies. Instead of learning my lesson, I kept the faith in my dogs (big mistake!) and Indy stayed one step ahead of me. In no time I managed to inadvertently train her to expand her counter-surfing ways from the couch to the coffee table to the edge of the counter and finally to the rear of the counter. This process was done as I would have trained any dog to do something desirable. I essentially had broken down her counter-surfing into steps and rewarded each “accomplishment” and introduced a harder step as she learned to master the easier step. She eventually taught Riley this cool new trick, and now I have some seasoned thieves on my hands!
Un-training is tough, and I don’t profess to know how to un-train this behavior. I believe that once you have a counter-surfer, you will always have one, even if the dog never snags something off the counter again. Prevention is the key to managing your dogs counter-surfing ways, so here are some suggestions:
- Place anything on the counter that will make noise when your dog knocks it over. Soda cans filled with pennies, a cookie sheet balanced precariously at the edge, even mousetraps (They snap but don’t hurt the dogs.) are all good items to use. Now, I’m too lazy to do this and find it impractical to maneuver around the kitchen with all these things at the edge of my counters. Veto.
- Supervise your dog at all times or use a crate. I know many Weims who learn that they cannot counter-surf when you are around, but when you are gone, all bets are off. Not a bad solution, but my dogs are otherwise trustworthy and I don’t want to crate them all the time when I’m not home.
- That left me with only one solution. Clean counters. This doesn’t curb or change the behavior, but if there’s nothing to snag, then there’s nothing to counter-surf. I am now in a habit of sticking tempting items inside the oven or on top of the refrigerator. And the counters stay clean – which is a nice bonus from the house keeping standpoint.
The bottom line is this. It is far easier to prevent counter-surfing by never allowing it to happen in the first place than to try and break a bad habit that has been heavily rewarded. I created a situation that is too difficult to attempt to undo, so now I have to manage. Since I can’t change my Weims’ behavior, it meant I had to change mine. So even if the rest of my house is a disaster, the counters always stay clean!
Please note: This is a Weim training article; I can’t help you if you can’t train your kids or your other half to keep things off the counter!