Household dogs snatching food left sitting out in the kitchen are so common that they've gained a title: counter surfers. Once your dog starts jumping up on tables and counters to grab morsels you've left to tempt their wits, it can be a challenge to get him to stop. Stopping your counter surfer requires a combination of prevention and training.
The easiest way to keep your dog from getting food off the counter or table is to keep all your food put away and wipe food preparation areas after each meal. While this will keep your dog from stealing food, it won't necessarily keep him from jumping on the table if he is accustomed to nabbing bites to eat from the table. In that case, he will probably keep jumping up to check for treats. Be consistent; your dog will need only occasional success to keep coming back for more. When you do see him go to the table, clap your hands and tell him "no" or "off" firmly. You want him to learn that he should ignore anything going on around food serving areas. If he is trustworthy, you can also physically move him, using his collar, to another area, such as the living room. If you feel he may snap or bite, just clap your hands and reprimand him verbally.
Teach Alternative Commands
If your dog doesn't already know basic obedience commands, begin teaching them. They'll be crucial to your training him to stay off the table. When food is present such as at your mealtime, have your dog sit, lay down or go to his bed, and give him a treat when he does. He should stay there until the food is cleared away. It will take some training -- and you may have more success keeping a leash on him so you can guide him back to his spot easily -- but your goal is for him to automatically go to the spot you have designated and stay there through mealtime. Be generous with the treats, but take them to him in his spot, don't call him over to you.
Use Noisemakers to Keep Him Away
You should keep your dog within eyesight while you are working through training issues, but that isn't always possible. Plus, some dogs are perfectly well-behaved when their humans are present but get bold when they are on their own. Placing commercial noisemakers available from the pet store or stacks of empty soda cans around the edges of your table and counter can put a stop to your dog's counter surfing. The noise and commotion when he jumps on the table will startle him and make him less inclined to try again.
Provide Plenty of Physical and Mental Exercise
Often, dogs start nosing around on tables and counters out of boredom. Once they are rewarded with food, it doesn't take much to keep them coming back. While you are training your dog to stay off the table, also make sure he is getting plenty of activity in the form of exercise, such as daily walks or trips to the dog park, and mental stimulation such as training sessions. A tired dog is typically better behaved than one with too much energy.
Split Your Dog's Mealtime Up
A dog who eats only once a day may have more trouble resisting temptation when hours have passed since his last meal. Even if your dog is a healthy weight, he may still get the urge to eat when he smells food. Breaking your dog's food into two or more feedings may make him more content and less likely to go looking for snacks.
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