Questions about dog behavior and training? Send them to:

Friday, December 14, 2007

Kitchen Counter Surfing

Hi Jan,
I was so excited to see you were still going to do a newsletter. My question for you……we have tried everything and Buster continually gets on his hind legs to sniff out what is on the counter or table. What do we try now?


I bet you haven't tried everything. Like mousetraps, for example. Buster is a fairly large dog, so this should work very well for him. Get some new, clean mousetraps (the old-fashioned wooden kind that snaps, not those plastic things). Set them along the very edge of your counter, where Buster usually surfs. Depending on how habitual he is about the surfing, you maybe won't need to "bait" the trap. If you do, your bait can be a dirty dinner plate with steak trimmings, or a cookie, or a loaf of bread sitting on the counter just behind the mousetrap. Leave the room or otherwise pretend to ignore Buster. Listen for the snap. Listen to Buster run away from the counter. He won't want to return to counter-surfing anytime soon.

This is a very effective learning method because YOU are not "involved" (as far as Buster knows). His actions (jumping on the counter) cause the REactions (snapping the trap), which are unpleasantly surprising. The trap won't catch his foot or otherwise hurt him. It will simply snap closed and go flying as soon as his paw or nose jiggles the base. Buster will be leary of jumping up on the counter again, for fear the same thing will happen the next time. After all, the traps took him by surprise the first time. As far as he knows, the traps are still there and ready to get him the next time too.

You need not say a THING to him when you re-enter the picture, other than some nonchalant praise as if you haven't a clue what just happened. That's the beauty of this behavior modification method. The dog makes his own decision not to do the deed, based on consequences experienced the last time.

Of course you should supplement this with some "management" procedures not routinely leaving food on the counter to tempt him....keeping him in a down-stay when he's with you in the kitchen...and keepin him supervised, maybe even on a drag leash again for a while. Often if you can faithfully break the pattern for a few weeks, the behavior will diminish and become extinct.

No comments: