The biggest question I get as a dog trainer is how the heck do I get my dog to stop doing bad behaviors. Behaviors like counter surfing, barking, going to the bathroom in the house. These are all super common issues that people have with their dogs. It can drive you crazy trying to figure out why they do it and how to get them to stop. But when I tell my clients the solution to these problems, their faces drop. Not because it’s hard but because it is so unbelievably easy to do!
Why do they do this? Dogs counter surf because that is where reinforcement has been before. What do you mean? Well, if your dog has gotten food off the counter before then he is likely to do it again. They might not get food every time they jump up but if there is a chance that he could get food again, it is likely that he will keep trying.
Remove the reinforcer or the food in this case
Keep him put away while you eat or while there is food on the counters. That way he won’t have the chance to reward himself for jumping on the counters. Let him out only when the counters are food-free and wiped clean. He will likely jump up and see that there is nothing there for him and quit trying. Now, this isn’t a quick fix, this will take more than one time to do. You will need to be consistent so he won’t ever be able to reward himself for being on the counters again.
Keeping a baby gate to close access to the kitchen is another way to remove the reinforcer.
Make the behavior inefficient
Meaning, he doesn’t need to jump on the counters to get food. Place his bones on the kitchen floor and hide treats throughout the kitchen (on the floor) so that he doesn’t feel the need to jump up. He can get what he wants from the floor.
Make a different behavior easier to do and more rewarding
This one is my go-to. Mainly because baby gates aren’t my thing and I would rather my dog know what he should be doing instead of trying to figure it out on his own.
Teach your dog to lay on a mat when he sees food in the kitchen, when you sit down at the table, and when you walk into the kitchen. A treat and train makes this super easy because you can just use a remote to treat him while you eat. Click here to buy one.