Teoti Anderson, CPDT-KA on June 26, 2012
"My dog keeps taking things off the kitchen counter. What can I do to stop him?"
Your first instinct may be to ask, "What’s on the counter?" Of course if the answer is "A ham sandwich," you may think that’s the main issue. It’s true, management is often an excellent solution to this problem. Teach the family not to leave food on the counter unattended so the dog doesn’t get rewarded for surfing. Also make the floor more appealing with food-stuffed toys, and the behavior will often extinguish.
It pays to look deeper, however — a lesson I learned after coming home from the day job, ready to divide the cookies I’d baked the night before into individual bags for my graduating dog training class that night. The previously sealed bag was on the floor of the kitchen, torn, with nary a cookie crumb in sight. Except the few that clung to my Labrador Retriever’s whiskers. My dog had counter surfed. At age 9. For the first time.
Easy to blame the cookies. They were peanut butter. Cody loved peanut butter. The bag was tightly sealed, but he knew what was in there. I’d left peanut butter cookies on the counter before, though. So why that day? In thinking about it, peanut butter cookies were not the reason my dog suddenly discovered the pleasures of counter surfing in his senior years. It was the prednisone.
Cody had just been to the veterinarian’s for a skin problem, and he was on prednisone, a steroid, for the first time. One of the side effects of prednisone is hunger. Now, “hungry Labrador” seems redundant, but this drug really had Cody ravenous. The poor boy was starving due to the medication, and there were the peanut butter cookies calling his name.
So the next time a student asks you about counter surfing, get a complete history so you can accurately form a training plan. Sometimes the peanut butter cookies are not to blame!
Teoti Anderson, CPDT-KA
Pawsitive Results, LLC – Lexington, SC