The instinct of a dog is to steal food, but it can be incredibly problematic and also dangerous for your dog to jump up to your kitchen countertop, open cupboards to find it and take it off plates.
Some foods do not agree with puppies, and they can get injured in the process of looking for it. You should keep your dog well fed and make sure he has the habit of eating from his personal bowl only. You can use a dog camera to monitor him.
Counter-surfing is a term used by a trainer when dogs steal food off tables and counters. Some dogs are incredibly skilled in this habit and only do it whenever their handlers are not looking, while others grab food even with their managers watching.
But, however sneaky or blatant a dog is with its counter-surfing, you cannot solve the problem by punishing it. It is the pet owner’s responsibility to take relevant preventive measures.
One of the crucial lessons you should teach your dog is that it should only eat from its food bowl, particularly if it has a stealing problem. That is also one of the first things you should teach a new puppy or dog.
Hopefully, once they learn to eat from their bowl only, you will notice that they are less likely to steal any food which is not theirs, as well.
Additionally, you should not leave your food in places where your canine friend can easily access it, and you should also avoid feeding your dog from your dining table if there is a food-stealing problem.
Why does your dog counter surf?
When you leave food on kitchen countertops or tables, it can become an open invitation for your canine friend. If your puppy has found some food on the counter or table even once, it may keep on jumping up to search for it.
And the dog will feel incredibly rewarded once they get something. Below are the reasons why your canine friend steals your food:
- It’s a perfectly natural habit for your dog. Every time your dog steals some food, it’s acting on a pretty instinctual behavior. Remember that food in the wild is usually scarce, so most dogs often learn to scavenge for them to survive.
- Lack of obedience training often leads to this kind of behavior. Some puppies steal food because they’ve never been well taught that it’s inappropriate.
- Dogs counter surf whenever they are hungry.
- Food stealing might be a symptom of separation anxiety. Many dogs will often steal items such as shoes or socks with the scent of their owner because they usually miss them. If you leave your dog alone for a long time, it might resort to some destructive behaviors such as stealing food. Just regarding separation anxiety, there is a separate article written by me which is so crucial for every dog owner to understand because anxiety can cause stress which is not good for dog’s overall health.
- Lack of exercise and boredom can lead to more stealing as well as other behavior issues in pursuit of some entertainment.
How to prevent your dog from stealing food
The habit of eating leftover food or scavenging is deeply ingrained in dogs. Scavenging might even be one of the reasons why dogs normally became dogs.
There’s evidence that the earliest type of dogs were initially wolves who scavenged from some human settlements many decades ago. The habit is also self-reinforcing, which means it provides its enjoyable reward. All these reasons make counter surfing a pretty challenging behavior for many owners to break.
Your puppy has just learned that the kitchen counters and tables are an easy source of yummy snacks. Every time your dog steals your food, it’s rewarded, which always strengthens the behavior.
If you are tired of losing your food to a sneaky dog every time you turn your back, the following are some useful tips on keeping your dog off the kitchen tables and counters.
1. Avoid leaving food unattended
Any food left lying around is usually considered as a fair game. You can understand this habit better by watching some of your dogs interacting with each other around some food. If your dog is hovering over a meat bone or guarding it, it is unsafe for another canine to approach the bone.
But once the first dog disengages from that bone or walks away, it signals to the other dogs that the chew no longer belongs to a particular dog.
Similarly, a pet is less likely to grab some food off the kitchen counter when a person is next to the food.
That is because it considers the food to be in possession of that person. But as soon as the food is left unattended, there’s nothing to stop a canine from seeing the chew as a community delicacy.
Since dogs are naturally scavengers, they will seize the opportunity to grab a delicious treat conveniently left on the coffee table or counter.
They do not understand that their meal is only supposed to come from a food puzzle or a food bowl; they are in search of any opportunities to dine.
When your pooch manages to snag a tasty meal off the kitchen counter, it’s pretty likely it will try finding some food there in the future since its scavenging habit was positively rewarded with a delectable treat.
2. Keep your pet well-fed
To start with, ensure that the counter surfing issue is not a medical problem. Some sicknesses can increase the appetite of your puppy, making them feel pretty hungry.
If you would like to know how you can stop your puppy from jumping on the kitchen counter, a veterinarian visit may be an ideal place to begin. Evaluate what you are feeding your pooch and ensure that it is getting enough food to eat.
3. Keep the dog active
You should provide your canine friend with lots of mental and physical stimulation during the day. Good training, relaxed walks on a leash, and fun games are all important for this purpose.
4. Feed your puppy from its bowl only
You should not allow your fur friend to eat at your dining table. Always keep your pooch from consuming human food at the dining table. You should also make sure that your puppy only eats dog foods from its bowl.
5. Do not give any food to a begging puppy
A dog begging for some food is normal when you cook or eat. Dogs are perfect manipulators. They can come up to the counter or table with their sad and wet eyes, and you will feel tempted to give them anything they want. However, you should know that giving in to that temptation might only make the dog come back even more often.
Most dog owners often succumb to offering their dog occasional treats from their dining table, but this can often lead to your pooch begging for food when you are eating, as well.
The solution to this is to avoid giving in to the begging because it is a battle of wills, and the more stubborn one will always win.
Apart from to this, below is a step by step approach that you can utilize to teach your puppy that you are ‘in control’ whenever it comes to food, instead of them.
- You can start by telling your canine friend to ‘sit’ as you prepare its food. Ensure that you do this away from the dining table where you usually eat.
- Next, place your dog’s food on the ground, but keep it in the sitting position till you permit it to eat by using the ‘ok’ command.
- While this is a pretty simple technique, it can eventually assist in changing its behavior if you are persistent.
6. Use a pet camera
Using a pet camera that provides treats is usually a great technique to monitor the behavior of your dog and reward it for behaving properly.
These cameras usually come with 2-way alerts and audio, meaning if you catch the dog stealing food or being naughty, you’ll know immediately and can tell it to stop. If it stops, fling a tasty treat as a reward and your puppy will be excited.
Are you supposed to punish your dog for stealing food?
When many people punish their dogs, normally the punishment isn’t strong enough to overshadow the rewards they’re getting such as bacon, a hot dog or even cheese, so that means your puppy will continue counter surfing.
If you punish your pooch for counter surfing, it’ll only learn not to steal your food when you are not around. Your dog will try avoiding punishment, not because it understands that what it is doing is wrong. You’ll never hear it happening, or it will happen so fast you will be clueless.
Reprimanding your dog will not prevent any future counter-surfing. Most often, the punishment is usually given long after the dog can connect the punishment with the habit of stealing your food.
Using aversive training along with booby traps, like cans that fall, a motion-detector sprinkler, or even an alarm that goes off, often creates anxious dogs and also hinders the animal-human bond.
That is a pretty high price to pay for a habit that can get prevented through management, although it is not a guarantee that the punishment will work at all.
The occasional reward of getting the food will push most canines to try stealing again, even if they get in some trouble.
It is so important to understand not to use force with your four-legged family member. I have an article on how to train your dog without force.
How to train your puppy not to jump on your food
Stealing food or scavenging is pretty rewarding for your pooch, which means it can be incredibly difficult to teach them out of the behavior. Jumping on the kitchen counters is a tough habit for your dog to break, but you can still train it to stop.
Here is a step by step technique you can use to change this habit and make them less likely to counter surf in the future.
- Ensure your dog is on a leash and then place something tempting on your counter or table. The moment your dog looks up to sniff your counter, take the lead back, and then say, “No.”
- But if you catch your puppy stealing your food, teach your dog to stop using the “leave it” command.
- If your dog is sniffing around your kitchen counter, tell it to “lie down” or “go to its place.”
Always reward desirable habits with a treat. The dogs are smart, which means your canine friend will soon realize that the probability of getting a tasty treat is higher whenever it listens to you compared to the times it sneaks some snacks behind your back.
Dog jumping is a behavior that is annoying for others around you also. It can be easily controlled by using the tips that I give in the article on stop dog for jumping on all kind of things and people too.
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Dogs will always get attracted to tasty human food. It’s your job as a dog owner to teach them acceptable behavior and some good manners. The best technique of dealing with dogs stealing food is by preventing it from happening in the first place. Ensure that nothing is on your kitchen counter or dining table.
Always stash fruits and snacks in the refrigerator or closed cabinets. Remember to pick any food items after preparing your meals. If you’re a first-time pet owner, you might need to change some habits. Always remove all dirty dishes from the dining table and also avoid leaving food unattended.
A pet camera can also assist you in monitoring the behavior of your canine friend even when you’re away. You can check in on your dog from your phone anytime or even replay the video history on your timeline to know what your dog was up to throughout the day.