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Tuesday Training Byte: Counter Surfing and Food Stealing

My grandmother used to say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is so true and directly applies to dog training. Many people expect their pup to have manners in the house. This is fine, but if we let the pup loose in the house, bad things are going to happen. I never- NEVER trust a pup to obey a command if he is off leash and loose. It is ineffective to yell out commands to them such as no, stop it, get down, sit, leave it. All that does is teaches the dog that he doesn’t have to obey your commands when he is off leash. So don’t give him that opportunity to mess up. First of all, it works best to use baby gates, and not allow the pup in the kitchen and eating area at all. Once they have counter surfed and successfully snagged a tasty bite of human food it is a lot more work to fix the problem. It is doubtful that you can convince your pup that following your command to leave it would be far more rewarding than the goody he just helped himself to. In addition to keeping your pup out of the food area, leave a short leash hanging on his collar while he is loose (out of his crate) in the house. And he should only be loose when you can 100% be watching and paying attention to him. If your life is so hectic that you can’t do that, then having a puppy right now may not be the best timing. Fixing the behaviors that your dog has already learned can take time, diligence, and a good deal of patience.

Dogs should not be allowed to rush in and grab whatever lands on the floor as it could be toxic or dangerous to them. If you are eating in the family room while watching a movie, your pup needs to know that whatever you set on the coffee table is off limits, even if you are out of the room. Start by feeding the pup only out of their bowl or your hand. I prefer to feed my pups in their crate. As I prepare their food they need to wait patiently. Including when I set the dish in their crate. I ask them to wait, wait, and then say okay. Use both hands so you can block the pup from diving in. If he tries to grab it, remove the dish and let him think about it a minute, then repeat the process. You can use a different word, but just be consistent.

There are several more steps to get full control of the pup’s bad habits, but this should help the pup learn that you decide when and where he will be allowed to eat. He will also learn self-control, which is needed to progress. Remember that every interaction you have with your pet you are training them- either good and bad, so set them up for success by preventing this naughty behavior in the first place and limiting his access to food areas.


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