Dog stealing food from the countertop? Dog Counter Surfing
Does your dog jump up and steal food off of your kitchen counters or table? Has he become so brazen as to do it when you are in the room? If so, you have a bona fide counter surfer!
Dog Stealing Food
Dogs are opportunists and many will try anything once. Dog counter surfingis a behavior that, in itself, is very rewarding. The dog smells something good up high and decides to put his paws up to investigate closer. When he discovers that the enticing aroma is coming from food that is reachable, he takes a bite. One bite alone isnít sufficient so, the dog goes back for more and proceeds in eating his fill. If we understand that dogs do what is rewarding, we can understand how a dog will continue to steal food until it is no longer rewarding. The danger lies in the fact that he may eat something that can be life threatening or, if the behavior continues, the owner may get fed up and decide to get rid of the dog. Either scenario is far less than desirable.
So, how do we stop the counter surfing?
How to stop dog from counter surfing
The answer is two-fold.
First, we must do our best to ensure that food is unreachable to your dog. Either it is put someplace where the dog canít reach it or, your dog is removed from the area all together by baby gates or a crate.
Secondly, we can try to set up the situation to make dog counter surfing scary instead of rewarding. Make sure to do this while you are home so you can be there to witness whether or not it is working. You will need to make a few penny cans (empty coke cans with either a couple of pennies or rocks inside and the top taped off to create a loud rattle).
The Set Up
Put some highly desirable, but safe for consumption, food out on the counter to entice your dog. Put the food close to the edge of the counter and tie a few penny cans to the food and push these to the back of the counter where your dog wonít see them right away. When your dog jumps up and steals the food off of the counter, the penny cans will follow and come crashing down around your dog. This is your cue to enter the room and remove the food the dog tried to steal before your dog goes back in to eat what is left on the floor. If all goes well, your dog will not still be in the room and will be startled by what just happened.
Repeat this over several weeks on varying days. Change up where and what food you leave out and remember to be at home when you set him up. If you find your dog wonít surf when youíre around, try acting as though you are leaving but only step outside and donít actually leave the vicinity of your home. Always isolate your dog from the kitchen when you are away to avoid him getting rewarded for stealing food when youíre gone.
After several incidents of the penny cans ďattackingĒ your dog for stealing food, you will find the behavior beginning to extinguish and your Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas ham will be safe once again.
I have read the penny in a can above but am wondering if it will work for my dog. she does not pull anything off the counter but eats it right there on the spot. She is a big enough breed and barely needs to jump up to get what is on the counter or table. I will be trying it tonight! I will post to say wether it works or not at the end of the week. I suppose if the food is tied to the string she wont be able to eat it. Hopefully she doesnt eat the string or I will be in more toruble than when I start. Do you think it will stop her from sniffing the table while we are all eating though?
have dalmatian, that counter surfs, generally keep everything out of reach, she can open lids, if i had food with a lid on, she gets it, runs away and opens lid and eats food, she is well fed, (bit overweigh), but counter surfs continually, any advice., she goes to dog training, and has plenty of walks, definately not a bored dog,
Surfing can be a lot more dangerous!!
Last night my 15 month old rescue dog "counter surfed" and set the Gas hob alight, she must have had several attempts as the whole house had the smelled of gas!!
In the end the only damage will be to my bank balance as the gas was on for a while however thought I'd share this with you all to show the true danger of this behaviour.
I have a five year old mini dachshund who can get onto the dining room table with ease by jumping onto a chair and then onto the table. If we have food on the table and don't pull away all of the chairs (a pain) he will be up in a flash and eat whatever he can in seconds. Last thanksgiving he ate straight through a cheesecake in a straight line - leaving a trough through the middle.
I was looking for a way to convince him that the food on the table is no longer edible and wondered if I covered it in hot sauce as a set up - would that turn him off the idea? My worry is that it would harm him.
He is too small for the penny cans to work - any ideas?
Just started counter surfing
So I read the other comments and noticed the border collie that has just started the counter surfing. I have a beagle. First incident was a couple months ago there was a waffle that she grabbed from a stack of cooling waffles while I was feet away in another room. She pulled the plate off the counter and it broke sending her running and scared her... in this instance the plate is the penny can. It was done. Yesterday I thought I heard her up on the counter again I was unable to get to the kitchen in time to catch her in the act, but I caught her last night with her feet on the island trying to get into her dog bone box (this is where they have been kept for years since we got her). Then there's today. I started eating my sandwich at lunch and ran out side for a second to pick some lettuce from a pot on my back porch (feet away again) and I hear a crash in the house. I run in and she has taken my sandwich and plate off the kitchen table. The crash of the plate scared her (again the penny can). I punished her and shut off the kitchen to her access. I can't keep the kitchen closed because its a walk through kitchen and she normally will run to the backdoor and hang out when I walk outside her food and water is also located in the mud room right off the kitchen. Since the waffle, its been off limits while I'm prepping food at night. I did save a little of the sandwich and tried to set her up after lunch with it back on the kitchen table. I punished her anytime she got near the table with the little bit of food on it. She is trained and knows the sit/stay well. She had lost a bit of weight like you su*gested about the border collie but since talking to the vet a couple of weeks ago we have upped her food intake during feeding time to help her gain some weight back.
Lab steals EVERYTHING!!!!!!
I have a 7 month yellow lab who is driving me CRAZY! He steals everything from the counter. He actively searches to see if there is something he can steal. It does not have to be food he is happy taking the keys and running with them. I believe this has become his morning "play" time. Let me steal and they will chase me and give me attention. What to do with this behavior?
I have a year old pitt, mastiff, boxer, lab mix and when I am home he is great. When I leave it's a different story. He not only gets on counters for food, but he gets on my dresser for clothing, eats mine and my husbands shoes, and even goes into to bathroom and eats the soap, shampoo, and even razors (we have removed them altogether). His favorite is getting into the garbage and eating toilet paper. He will find and chew anything and everything, and always find a way to knock it over to get it. He recently knocked over my T.V. to get to my husband's xbox 360 controller and nearly ate all of that!! I have tried everything from separating him, to doing to penny can. It seems to have no affect on him! What can I do to help him stop this? He does it when I am gone for 5 mins even! it's hard to catch him in the act so I can't really discipline him properly.
Please Help. I don't want to get rid of him but if I can't get him under control, I have to! Vanessa
Dog steals and destroys everything in my house...HELP
My dog is very large and steals everything, not just food, off the counters and tables. I began setting my baby's favorite toys far back on the counters because he had destroyed so many of them, but somehow he still manages to reach them even when I put them where they should be out of reach. u*ggghhhhhhh!!! He also steals things from baskets (i.e- he has eaten numerous pairs of underwear) and he even steals toilet paper right off the rolls. Replacing things he has ruined is costing me a small fortune. I try to keep my house dog proof, but moving stuff out of reach doesn't help because he just finds something else to steal instead. He also has a horrible habit of stealing stuff when he's on the way out to "relieve himself" and then he takes it up to a hill by our house and hoards it. He stole my father-in-laws drill and took it up there a few weeks ago. He is seriously driving me crazy. I am skeptical of the can thing working with him, but I am willing to give it a shot. I will try anything at this point. Any other su*gestions are very welcome, but I am praying this works!!!!
Re: Raven, suddenly a counter surfer
I suspect the behavior has escalated due to the number of times she has been successful stealing food either off the counters or your plates. I would encourage you to keep her in a crate when you aren't home so that she doesn't have unbridled access to the food when you're gone. I would also su*gest you train her to stay (see the stay section on this site) for a long period of time and have her stay outside of the kitchen area while you're eating. In the beginning, you may be getting up frequently to reinforce the stay if she tries to get up and come into the kitchen but, with some effort and time on your part, you will soon have a well trained dog who knows to stay out of the kitchen while you're eating. I recommend a down stay where the dog can still see you but is a comfortable distance away from the dinner table. If you have small children, make sure they aren't feeding her when you aren't looking or they will be encouraging your dog to sniff around the table and scrounge for food. Try the penny can when you are home with something really yummy and see if she'll go for it even when you're home! You might be surprised and, hopefully, the cans will scare her and make her think twice before she does it again! Good luck!
Re: counter surfing collie
This is a bit puzzling. I would first look at her diet and weight and see if she has gained or lost weight recently. If you have recently changed her food, this could be a factor. It is possible that she is extremely hungry and therefore will search out food anywhere she can get it, no matter the consequences. I have heard of dogs resorting to eating feces when hungry enough! If you have done nothing differently with her food or the amount and, especially if your dog is losing weight, you may want to get her checked out to make sure everything is OK. It could be nothing or it could be something but, it's always best to have a vet give her a clean bill of health when a new behavior like this begins. If everything is normal health wise, I would su*gest that she just got lucky one day with the cake and now the behavior is continuing due to the major reward she got for counter surfing and scoring a birthday cake! If the behavior continues or escalates, most definitely try the penny can technique or even deem the kitchen off limits unless you allow her to come in. Keep me posted... Carrie
Re: Sam with German Shepherd
I suspect he steals these things because he knows you will come chase him in order to get the item back. This sounds like an attention getting behavior and even though the attention you are giving him is probably not warm and loving while he's doing it, it is still attention. Like a child, he doesn't care if the attention is positive or negative just as long as it's attention! It is a fun game for him. I would recommend teaching him a "drop" command. One easy way to get a dog to drop something you don't want him to have is to pick up his ear and blow in it. I would work training sessions where you give him something like a toy or ball and ask him to drop while simultaneously lifting his ear and blowing in it. Once he catches on to the command, he'll begin dropping it on command. Part of the game is probably also the chase so work on a recall command. See the recall section on this site. Once you reinforce a recall repeatedly with a high power reward (think food), he will be more willing to come back to you. Just be sure to follow my number one rule of recalls: Never discipline a dog when they let you catch them. If you do, you will only teach your dog that coming to you is not safe and he will likely run longer and further the next time he steals something because he can't trust you. I would also recommend giving him more exercise. German Shepherds are herding dogs who need lots of stimulation, both mentally and physically. Try taking him for a long walk around the block each day or even get involved in something fun with your dog like agility! Ultimately, your dog wants your attention and wants to be with you so, any activity you can do with him will help squelch some of that stealing behavior. Good luck, Carrie
re: Rat Terrier
For a dog that counter surfs/table surfs when you aren't home, the best way to correct that behavior is not to allow it to happen. Do you have a crate you could put him in when you leave? If not, I would consider investing in one and training him to stay in there when you're not home. There is a crate training section on the site to help you introduce it to him and get him comfortable being in it. If you are going to be gone for a long period of time, I would su*gest you either come home during the lunch hour to let him out or have a friend or your mom come do it for you. If leaving him in the crate while you're gone is not an option, then you will need to clear your kitchen counters and table of all food. All food needs to be behind cabinet or cupboard doors. This will keep him from stealing food while you're gone and/or potentially eating something that will make him very sick. Good luck! Carrie
Re: Polar bear
I don't think soaking food with hot sauce would particularly work in this situation. You don't know how the dog will react or if it will even phase her but, more importantly than that, to a counter surfing dog, any food is good food (reward) even if it tastes bad. She may not associate the unpleasant taste with the action of counter surfing but more with that particular food itself. Also, the after effects of eating something spicy may not end up well for her or your carpet! I think you'd find that it would only deter her slightly. Try the penny can technique and also keeping food off the counter and behind cabinet doors, especially things that could be harmful to her. Hope this helps.. Carrie
Suddenly a Counter Surfer
I have a 2 year old almost 3 year old black lab and she has become overly brave when it comes to sniffing our supper plates and stealing food off the counters. She old steals stuff off the counters when we are not home however I have considered setting her up and just leaving the house and waiting outside for a bit but the only problem with that is that she watches for the car to leave. She never used to be this bad and I don't know why she suddenly changed...any su*gestions? Thank you
My dog just started counter surfing
I have never had a problem with my Collie getting onto the counters. Recently, on my birthday my cake was sitting back on the counter, with the lid on. We heard some movement in the kitchen and walked in to find her quite easily somehow moving the cake pan towards her. She was admonished, and banished to my room for the rest of the evening. When the house guests left, I let her out while I was cleaning up. The cake pan was in the same place, however the lid wasn't on that tight. I had gone into the other room and came back into the kitchen with the cake pan on the floor and my dog eating up the leftover cake! She has done this two more times in the ensuing weeks, even if it's a crumb, she's after it. She has never done this before. Of course the counter tops are cleared off, but I am concerned that she may go after things on the other countertops in my home. Especially if she perceives it as food. Any idea as to why this new behavior has started?
German Shepherd willing to steal ANYTHING
My dog doesn't just steal food (we don't leave anything out now when we go out. But he steals anything he can find on the surface or in the kitchen such as handwash, radiator knob covers, kitchen roll holder and even the ring of the hob! How do I stop this as he is not scared of noises, we could be working in a thunder storm and it doesn't bother him. Just not sure what to do and at my wits end with it!
My rat terrier only jumps up when im not home.
He has been doing this a whole lot recently in the past week. Hes never done it before and now everyday when i leave i always find dirty paw prints on the table and missing food. My mom has had it with it and I am just lost on what to do because if he keeps it up she will get rid of him.
please and thank you.
My dog is a counter surfer. I'm extremely worried about her eating something that would kill her!
My dog has been approaching the counter for about a month now. Yesterday she stole a cheese bagel that was on the counter with a very sharp knife. Today she almost ate a plate of dark chocolate brownies. If I had left her alone for 30 more seconds, she would have had to go to the vet to have her stomach pumped. I'm extremely worried about her eating something that could kill her! The brownies almost did today! I have considered soaking a piece of bread with Tabasco or maybe creole seasoning (anything extremely spicy), leaving it on the counter, and leaving the room. Would this be a good idea?
Re: Counter surfing pit bull
For a dog that counter surfs when you aren't home, the best way to correct that behavior is not to allow it to happen. You said that she steals food off the counter and takes it to her crate to eat it so, why not leave her in her crate when you aren't there? If it is a matter of you being gone for a long period of time, I would su*gest you either come home during the lunch hour to let her out or have a friend come do it for you. If leaving her in the crate while you're gone is not an option, then you will need to clear your kitchen counters of all food. Maybe purchase a bread box for the bread she loves to eat, but definitely put all food behind cabinet or cupboard doors. This will keep her from stealing food while you're gone and/or potentially eating something that will make her very sick. Hope this helps! Carrie
My pit bull only counter surfs when I am not home!
I like the idea, but it hasn't worked for me because she won't approach the counter when she knows I am home. I do not allow my 3-year-old pit bull mix on furniture, nor does she ever counter surf in my presence. When I'm at work, however, is a different story. Twice I have come home to find that she has pulled loaves of bread off the counter, taken them to her crate and eaten them (I know because I have found the bags in her crate... she doesn't know to hide the evidence).
Re: Husky is a confirmed counter surfer
This is a tough one to answer. It is most likely that your Husky learned this possessive food behavior from whatever previous situation he was in like, if he had to scrounge for food or was neglected and didn't get fed consistently. The food obsession is a behavior he may or may not ever outgrow. The first thing I would teach him is a down stay behavior. I would use a down stay to keep him out of the kitchen and also keep him at a distance from whomever has food. For example, when you are in the kitchen cooking, a dog underfoot can become a dangerous situation so I would teach him a down stay just outside the perimeter of the kitchen. This way, he can still watch you but won't be up underneath you. Another example, if you are eating food at the table or anywhere for that matter, I would teach him a down stay at a distance to prevent begging and food possession. I would probably get a crate for him as well and feed him his food in the crate to prevent any possession issues between him and your other dog. For that matter, you may want to consider feeding your other dog in a crate as well. If you feed your dogs in their crates, the Husky will not see the kitchen as the source of his food because that is not where he actually eats. It may help prevent any possession of the actual kitchen itself and, if you set the kitchen as an off limits area (using the down stay), your dog will really have no attachment to the kitchen whatsoever. Implement the penny can strategy for the counter surfing problem and be consistent about removing your Husky from the kitchen whenever he goes in there. There is no guarantee that you may never deal with food aggression but, hopefully over time, he will learn not to be so possessive/obsessive of food when he realizes that he no longer has to hunt for or fight for his share. Hope this helps and let me know how it works out.. Carrie
Husky is a confirmed counter surfer
I have a four year old husky that we have adopted from the spca he is an avid counter surfer and is obssessed with food, he just about pushes you over if he hears anyone go into the kitchen also he will not concentrate on anything else playing/walks etc if someones in the kitchen or has food. Any suggesstions? We do have another dog a bearded collie cross and I'm worried he starts guarding the kitchen or becomes aggressive etc.
Will she counter surf when you are home? If so, you could set her up and then ambush her with the cans. The element of surprise is crucial here and her being deaf actually works in your favor for surprising her with discipline. Set her up, leave the room and wait.. When she goes to steal food, lob some empty coke cans at her or penny cans to add more weight. You are definitely not trying to hurt her but you want to startle her and make stealing food a scary thing. As far as your dogs fighting over food, I would first of all separate them while feeding to ensure a fight doesn't break out. You may never be able to stop her from being food possessive but at least if the other dog can't get to her food, she will not get aggressive. Not knowing who is the dominant dog in your house, it is hard to say why the aggression is happening. It could be a simple as the fact that she is deaf and the other dog surprised her once so, now, she feels as though she needs to be on guard. If you want to email me with more specifics, I could try to give a little more advice.
My dalmation is always counter surfing
and she is deaf and the penny thing didnt work for her do you have anyother adivse ?Plus she gets very nasty to my other dog when she comes near her food she wants to attack her .If anyone have any suggestions I would really appericate the help Thank you Melissa
Can't wait to try it!
I can definitely see this working--thanks for the tip!