How I Trained My Dogs to Counter-Surf

By Anne Taguchi | Last Updated: July 25, 2021

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! (They call this a “jackpot reward” in training circles.)

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. One of my dogs 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 the dogs stayed one step ahead of me. 

In no time I managed to inadvertently train my Weims to expand their 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 the counter-surfing into steps and rewarded each “accomplishment.” Then I introduced a harder step as they learned to master the easier step. 

They taught each successive dog 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:

Noise-Makers

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 Weimaraner

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.

The Inevitable Solution

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. And 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!

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About Anne Taguchi

Surviving life with Weims!

4 responses to “How I Trained My Dogs to Counter-Surf”

  1. Kim A Wozniak says:

    My New 9 month old weim steals my stuff! Not just food. Glasses, telephones, the list goes on. I am not a crater and she does it even when I am there. This morning I got out of bed, went to the bathroom a few seconds later I heard jump of the bed and go to a favorite chair. I got up and she had taken my glasses from the night stand and ruined them. All of this happened in less than one minute. This afternoon she took my daughters phone. Again in less than one minute of me not watching her. I am at my WitsEnd!

    • Anne Taguchi says:

      That’s a tough situation if the habit has been rewarded for some time, and it is difficult to supervise if you are unable or unwilling to crate. If crating is really not an option, I would suggest using the tether method and keep her tethered to you with a leash so she cannot get out of sight and into trouble. In the case of going to the bathroom or showers, the best thing I can advise is having someone else watch her, or putting her in a room or yard where there is nothing to steal. The key is to never reward the behavior again. It is difficult because Weims are smart and fast, but you will have to out-smart her. This is why I love crating since it’s a way to control their environment.

  2. Lauren Hamilton says:

    We have a 6 month old weim puppy. We have tried several training methods, most of which are based on a pack mentality and establishing who is the pack leader (i.e. Doggy Dan, the online dog trainer). Some rules suggest using “time out” when he persistently does something we don’t want him to do, and to ignore him when he comes to you for attention/to play/for affection (especially after being separated from him) and to push him away if he tries to invade your space by laying on you, etc.. The suggestion is to give him attention on your own terms (as this is what the pack leader in the wild would do?); only after he quits bugging you for attention, can you then call him to you and give him attention and affection. We have tried this type of method for only about a day and a half and our puppy reacted with even more barking at us, stealing items around the house, and aggression toward us. We are not sure if this is just our puppy feeling “overthrown” because he’s already developed some bad habits and established himself as the leader in our home, or if this training is not the best practice for the weim breed. We don’t want to use any training that would make him resentful or make matters worse. We know weims are like velcro, and enjoy being near their people at all times, and also that they are too smart for their own good, but does this mean that weims require unique/different training methods than your average dog? Do you have any resources/references for other trainers/training methods you recommend specifically for weimaraners?

    • Anne Taguchi says:

      Hi Lauren,

      It’s a little hard to say that any particular method will always work for Weims. In general most sound training methods work with all dogs, it’s just that Weims may learn faster (good and bad stuff) and there is variation among individuals as well. 6 months old is a pretty rough time in that your pup is an adolescent and he is testing the rules and boundaries. This is pretty natural among all breeds and some will be more testy than others. I would guess that a day and a half is not nearly enough time for what you are trying to achieve right now. He was likely rewarded for his behavior in the past, so he will try harder now that the rules have changed, and it wouldn’t surprise me if his behavior gets worse before it gets better. I agree that giving him attention on your terms and not his is a good way to try to curb his behavior, and I also think it’s very smart of you to get a handle on this now while he’s at this age. You will probably find that after a some worse behavior, it will get way better if you stick it out, and that his good habits will bleed into other areas.

      Good luck!
      Anne

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