How to End Your Pup’s Counter Surfing Once and for All!

The day before Thanksgiving, one of our most loyal clients cancelled their reservation because their dog had gotten a hold of a box of chocolates of the counter.  Unfortunately, Baxter (Bax as we lovingly call him here at camp) needed veterinary care as a result. All of us here at camp were very worried for him but we are happy to report that Bax has recovered 100%.  We were excited to have him stay at camp soon after Thanksgiving and based on his energy level, we knew he was right back to his old self.


After this incident, we realized that counter surfing and stealing human food is a common problem for our clients.  We also know that it can unfortunately lead to life threatening health issues and huge vet bills. In order to try to help our clients be proactive and prevent any incidents (especially during the holidays when food is abound), we decided to put together some ideas on how to avoid this problematic behavior in our furry friends.

The Obvious

Of course the easiest and most foolproof way to prevent counter surfing is - of course - removing all food items from counters and table tops.  We also recommend wiping surfaces clean of crumbs and smears. This will eventually lead to a dog losing interest in surfing for food as there are no tempting traces in sight (or sent) range.  Quite simply, if there is never any food to be found on the counter, the dog will stop sniffing for goodies and - PRESTO - no more counter surfing!

If you find that you absolutely need to put food items out (perhaps while preparing for a big dinner for family and friends), keep your fur baby out of the area.  Close the door or put up a temporary baby gate. Trust us - investing in a baby gate is much less expensive and stressful than spending Christmas Eve at the Emergency Vet Clinic.  

The “Place” To Be

There is nothing quite like the “place” command to solve a multitude of behavior problems.  If a dog is in place command on a dog bed, he/she can not be causing trouble around the house.  No counter surfing, no charging the door at incoming guests and no chewing up your sofa! Hallelujah!  

To teach your pup the place command, simply put him on a trailing leash, lead him to a dog bed and calmly say “place.”  Once there, reward with a calm “good job” or “good place.” It is important to keep your voice calm and even. If you start celebrating his place with a happy upbeat voice, your dog will most likely become excited.  He will want to stand up and wag his tail to show just how happy he is that he did what was asked - but in essence - he is then breaking the place command.

It is also a good idea to slowly increase the distance between you and your dog after putting him in place.  At first, you should stay close and hold onto the leash so you can put him right back on the dog bed when/if he breaks the command.  Breaking the command is actually a wonderful teaching moment - so don’t get frustrated. Just keep putting him back calmly and repeating, “No. Place.”  Once your pup starts getting the hang of it, you can then start increasing the distance. Pretty soon, you will be able to calmly work at the kitchen counter or stove while your well behaved pooch stays in place at the other end of the room.  He or she will be content to watch you work instead of looking for food. Hopefully he will eventually relax - perhaps even take a snooze!

Stay the Course

Learning the place command will take some time and patience.  Try not to get frustrated when your best buddy breaks the command over and over.  Stay calm and be persistent. Simply continue to put your pup back in place and praise him calmly until he begins to learn what you are asking of him.  

You can further condition your dog to stay on the dog bed by giving treats while he/she is staying in place.  He will soon realize that there are more goodies coming his way while staying on the dog bed as opposed to upsetting mommy and daddy by stealing the family dinner of the table.  It’s a win-win for everyone and will make for much safer and happier Christmas Dinner!

Happy Holidays from our family to yours! Woof!