|Posted on May 5, 2013 at 1:40 AM|
As I came up the stairs from the basement, I caught Spencer gobbling down a sizeable chunk of Parmesan cheese. Not only did he grab that rather expensive prize, but he also found the piece that was already inside the cheese grater. So much for the perfect Caesar salad for supper, and good thing the steak was still in the fridge, or all would have been lost. This is just one of many tasty treats my sneaky counter-surfer has managed to steal.
Perhaps Spencer’s most heart-breaking prize was the pumpkin pie. I only left the kitchen for a few minutes, but apparently that’s all the time it takes to:
1. Discover the pie – although he probably smelled it among the groceries as I turned in the driveway
2. Place one’s enormous hairy muppet paws on the edge of the countertop
3. Reach to the centre of a very large, wide island
4. Pull the pie safely to the floor, no flipping
5. Eat 7/8 of a pie – yes, I had at least gotten one piece
6. Lick the pie plate shiny clean
I can only gain a little satisfaction from the fact he couldn’t open the fridge and top it all off with Cool Whip.
Oh, I’ve tried the cookie sheet traps, balancing noisy items to fall and frighten the thief when the counter is touched by an investigatory paw or nose. I’ve sprayed supposedly noxious smelling liquids on my counter tops in an effort to break the surfing habit. I’ve even used duct tape along the edge of my countertops to grab his hairy mitts. None of those tricks worked, and certainly shaming him had no effect at all. To be fair, once the pie was gone, it simply ceased to exist in Spencer’s mind, and just what was Mom freaking out over?
The trouble is, counter surfing is highly rewarding, and once your dog has figured it out, you may end up with a dedicated surfer. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a quick lick of a frying pan cooling on the stove. That little bit of bacon grease is worth it, in Spencer’s mind. Counter surfing is also quite a common habit for teenage puppies to acquire, for as they become taller, a whole new world opens up for them and it is possible to actually see the source of the tantalizing smells that come from on high in the kitchen.
What to do? For starters, PUT things away! Everything! Even if it seems like the most unappealing item in the world – that includes, for example, a box of instant oatmeal packets. Did you know that each one tastes as icky as the last, but there is no way to know this unless one has chewed open each and every bag and spread the oatmeal around the entire house to taste it? Surely the pack that tasted awful on the rug in front of the door would improve in taste if it were dragged up onto the top of Mom and Dad’s bed. No, not so much.
Secondly, don’t leave the counter surfer alone in the kitchen. Now, this can be tricky, because there is always the moment when you need to run to the pantry or freezer to grab one ingredient you may be missing as you cook. I’ve hit upon a solution, aside from stuffing the entire cooking project inside a cupboard or the oven. Invite the surfer to accompany you to where ever it is you need to go. When there is a BBQed chicken on the counter, this can be a challenge. So that’s when you make the trip worthwhile. Lure the surfer with some pieces of the chicken. Reward and praise every time your dog follows you to the pantry - which, in our house, just happens to be where the dog food is stored, so it’s pretty easy to convince Spencer to accompany me on little errands.
If you want an appropriate behavior to be repeated, reward it. For Spencer, following me out of the kitchen has become a habit because I have taken a moment to hand him a little piece of kibble whenever entering the pantry. This journey has become rewarding, and with repetition and later, intermittent rewards, he follows almost without fail.
While you are present, the command commonly used to remind dogs to keep their paws on the floor is “Off.” Typically, in manners classes, we teach our dogs the word “Off” as we train them to not jump up on humans. This can also be transferred to keeping paws off the counter, or directing a dog to leave the sofa. Spencer does know the command, he’s just clever enough to never give me occasion to use it, since he does not counter-surf when I am in the room – hence the “follow me” lessons. This tactic has enabled him to be more successful in the house, and has led to less disappearance of critical ingredients while cooking.
For more tips and ideas for out-thinking your dog, contact Ministik Hills Dog Training for Basic Manners Classes and/or Private Lessons. Rest assured, the Dogs of Ministik Hills are constantly looking for ways to challenge my abilities to problem solve, and I can share some solutions with you!
Categories: Training "Tails"
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