If your dog is constantly jumping onto surfaces they shouldn’t or snatching food off the table, then you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, you’ll find some excellent tips on how to stop your dog from counter surfing and stealing food. 

Counter surfing is a common problem that many dog owners face. Dogs, especially those with higher prey drives, may try to steal food from the kitchen counter or table. They can even jump up on the counters themselves. This behavior can be both dangerous for your dog and very annoying for you. Fortunately, there are some tips and tricks you can use to stop your dog from counter surfing and stealing food. 

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Why Do Dogs Suddenly Start Stealing Food?

First, it is important to understand why dogs are drawn to stealing food off tables and counters.  Dogs may counter surf and steal food for a variety of reasons. Some may be bored, frustrated, or just looking for attention. Many dogs have an innate drive to scavenge for food, and this can be particularly strong in breeds that were bred as working or hunting dogs. There is also the possibility that your dog may simply be looking for a snack. Some could even find counter surfing to be a fun game. 

Some of the most common causes for counter surfing include:

  • Boredom or frustration;
  • Attention seeking;
  • Easy access to food;
  • Strong scavenging urge due to breed;
  • Hunger;
  • Previously learned behavior or improper training

As you can see, dogs may counter surf and steal food for a variety of reasons. Some may be bored, frustrated, or just looking for attention. Many dogs have an innate drive to scavenge for food, and this can be particularly strong in breeds that were bred as working or hunting dogs. There is also the possibility that your dog may simply be looking for a snack. Some could even find counter surfing to be a fun game. 

Moreover, one of the main reasons is because they can get easy access to food this way. Obviously, this may be more appealing than waiting for a meal that you prepare for them. Furthermore, some dogs may have been previously rewarded for stealing food in the past, which is why they continue to do it. Lastly, some dogs may simply be bored and looking for something to do by taking food from counters.

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Tips On How To Stop A Dog From Stealing Food And Prevent Counter Surfing

So, how to stop your dog from stealing food and counter surfing? Fortunately, there are a few ways you can go about this. Here are our top tips: 

Keep Temptations Out Of The Way

The best way to stop your dog from counter surfing and stealing food is to take measures to prevent them from getting access to the food. This means keeping all food off the counters and the kitchen table – wherever you usually prepare meals or have something lying around. By keeping tempting items out of reach, you’ll make counter surfing and stealing food a less desirable activity for your pup. 

Place anything you don’t want your dog to have out of sight or in high places, such as cupboards or drawers that your pup cannot access. Also, make sure that all of the cabinets are closed. This way, there’s even less temptation for your pup to deal with. Put away snacks and other treats in closed containers so that they are not easily accessible. If you need to leave some items out while you prepare meals, move them far away from the edge of a counter or table, where they can’t be easily grabbed by your dog. 

Likewise, make sure you always wipe the counters clean immediately after you’ve finished preparing a meal. If there’s anything slightly tempting left out, rest assured your pup will find it. And if this happens even just once, they won’t be forgetting it any time soon, either. 

Additionally, if you are having guests over, it is always best to keep any food or snacks off the coffee table or low surfaces where your pup may be able to easily get to them. We also recommend all of your guests know the appropriate way to interact with your pets, including not feeding them any food scraps under the table. 

Keep Your Dog Away From “Problem Areas”

If your pup is particularly prone to counter surfing and stealing food, you may want to consider keeping them away from problem areas such as the kitchen and dining room when unsupervised. This will help minimize the chances of your pup getting into trouble while you are away. 

You can also try using baby gates or other barriers to deny your dog access to counter tops. This way, you can keep preparing meals in peace and have your pup there with you at a safe distance, without you having to worry about deterring them from counter surfing. 

Another great tip for how to stop your dog from stealing food and counter surfing is to utilize crate training. If you cannot supervise your dog whilst there are foods lying on the kitchen counter, guiding your dog to take a nap in their crate would be an excellent option. 

We recommend that all puppies are started on crate training as early as possible. Their crate is their very own safe haven. By providing your pup a safe and comfy place to retreat to, not only will you establish good boundaries, you’ll also build your pup’s confidence. This is also super helpful for other destructive behaviors, but also for managing stress and anxiety. 

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Teach Your Pup Good Manners

Establishing boundaries from the beginning is key in getting your dog to stop counter surfing and stealing food. For this reason, we recommend you start training your new puppy appropriate manners and good behavior from the moment you bring them home. The earlier you start, the easier it will go. 

If you’d like to know how to keep a dog off the counter, then the answer probably won’t surprise you. To discourage counter surfing, it is important to create a consistent training regimen. Regardless of your dog’s age! It’s never too late to start. After all, it’s your responsibility to guide your pup’s behavior, and teach them what’s appropriate and what isn’t.

For instance, by teaching basic obedience commands such as “sit” or “down”, you can better manage your dog’s behavior. In addition to that, we recommend you teach your dog the “leave it” command and practice it whenever you catch your pup eyeing something on the floor or table. With this command, you can tell your dog when it’s okay for them to take something and when it isn’t.

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Increase Exercise

One of the easiest ways to stop your dog from counter surfing and stealing food is to carefully consider if they’re getting enough exercise. Interestingly, increasing your pup’s exercise regimen can be helpful in curbing counter-surfing behaviors. That’s especially true for dogs that don’t get enough exercise and mental stimulation considering their natural energy levels and intelligence. If that happens, they’ll get bored, frustrated, and generally resort to destructive behaviors.

Exercise and playtime can help give your pup an outlet for their energy and prevent them from looking for fun elsewhere. If your dog gets to expel all that pent up energy, it’ll keep them from getting bored or frustrated. And as we know, these emotions may lead to stealing food or jumping up on counters.

Make sure you provide plenty of opportunities for physical and mental stimulation throughout the day. Indeed, mental stimulation is just as important as physical stimulation, especially for highly intelligent dog breeds. The goal is to keep their minds occupied and prevent them from getting bored. Providing your pet with plenty of activities and mental stimulation will help keep them occupied and may prevent them from seeking out food on their own. 

If so far you’ve neglected the mental stimulation side of things, our guide to dog enrichment toys, ideas, and activities will help you utilize the best forms of mental enrichment methods for your precious pal. 

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Don’t Forget Toys & Treats

If you know a little bit about dogs, you know that chewing is something very instinctual for them. If the reason behind your dog’s counter surfing behavior is their need to chew on something, then you’ve got it easy. Just get your pup some chew toys and you’re all set. This is especially helpful for puppies who are still teething, as it will give them something to chew on that won’t tempt them to grab food off the table. 

You can also get some puzzle toys for your pal, especially the ones where you have to hide a tasty treat or dog food inside. This provides your pup their daily dose of daily mental enrichment. Additionally, it also gives them something to actually eat instead of opting to steal your food. 

However, when you catch your pup about to jump onto a counter or snatch something off the table, you should not distract them with a toy or treat. Although this will redirect their attention away from potential snacks momentarily, it will only teach them that if they jump on the counter, they’ll get a reward in the form of playtime or other positive reinforcements.

Reward Good Behavior & Never Punish Your Dog

Needless to say, whenever your pup successfully refrains from counter surfing or stealing food, make sure you reward them with praise or treats. This will reinforce their good behavior and let them know that ignoring items on counters and tables is more beneficial than taking them. That’s essentially what positive reinforcement training is. 

But how to discipline a dog for stealing food? For starters, you should never punish your dog for misbehaving. If you catch your pup in the middle of trying to snatch something off a counter or table, don’t scold them. This will only make them scared and startled and likely do nothing to stop their behavior from occurring again. Instead, remove the item they’re interested in and take them away from the area. 

Unwanted behaviors should never be met with yelling, scolding, or any other forms of punishment. Simply ignore them and redirect your dog to another activity. In fact, negative attention for dogs is simply attention, which could even lead to more unwanted behaviors in the future.

Be Consistent

As with any behavior modification, it is important to be patient and consistent when training your pup. If you are not reinforcing the same commands and rewards each time, your pup may become confused or disinterested in the process. On top of that, it’ll only send your dog mixed signals. 

By following the steps above and being consistent in your approach, you can effectively stop your dog from counter surfing and stealing food. In time, they will learn that leaving items on tables and counters alone is the right thing to do. And that’s why your example is key here! Your dog learns all of its behaviors and reactions simply by observing your behavior. 

That’s why we also recommend that you never feed your pup table scraps or from the kitchen counter. If you treat them as if it’s okay for them to come up and investigate food on these surfaces, then your pup will be more likely to try their luck with counter surfing. Similarly, you should only feed your dog from their own food bowl, and only feed them appropriate doggy treats.

Maybe They’re Just Hungry?

There are times when the answer to how to stop your dog from stealing food and counter surfing simply lies in feeding your dog more of their own kibble. Many dogs, especially those with a higher energy level, will often become so ravenously hungry that they’ll take to scavenging for more food. This doesn’t mean you should overfeed your pup. But rather, make sure you feed them enough of the right type of food on a regular schedule to keep their hunger in check.  

In fact, we’ve created a full in-depth guide on how much you should feed your dog, along with a handy dog food calculator that lets you calculate exactly how much of your pup’s daily kibble they should eat to stay healthy, happy, and well-behaved.

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Consider Your Dog’s Emotional Wellbeing

Finally, it is important to consider your dog’s emotional wellbeing when attempting to change their behavior. If your pup has experienced stress or trauma in the past, they may be more inclined to counter surf and steal food due to anxiety or fear. 

Please note that if your dog is displaying destructive behaviors due to anxiety or stress then it is crucial that you consult a professional dog behavioral therapist or even your veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to provide additional advice on how best to manage the issue, and ensure that the best possible approach is taken for your pet’s unique needs.

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By addressing any underlying issues and taking steps to prevent and discourage counter surfing and stealing food, you can help ensure your pup stays safe and healthy. With consistent training, patience, and love, you can create a happy and harmonious environment for both you and your furry friend!

How To Stop A Dog From Counter Surfing & Stealing Food: Final Thoughts

To conclude, stopping your dog from counter surfing and stealing food is possible with the right attitude and approach. By using prevention methods such as keeping food off counters and teaching basic obedience commands, you can help discourage this behavior in your pet. Hopefully you found these tips helpful for how to stop a dog from counter surfing and stealing food. Remember, it’s important to be patient and consistent with your pup when training them. With the right approach, you can ensure that your pup stays away from items on counters and tables, turning counter surfing into a thing of the past.

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One thought on “How To Stop Your Dog From Counter Surfing & Stealing Food

Sherry Bailey Reply

Awesome information. Your articles and information are always appreciated. Your love for Doodles is evident and delightful. Thank you for all your guidance in taking great care of our beloved pets.

November 20, 2023 at 2:01 am

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