Woofology - Trainers Academy, LLC - Dog Training and DayCare


Dear WOOF:

I have a 2 1/2 year old greyhound. He is great in so many ways, but he gets things off the kitchen counter while I'm not at home. I come home to a big mess. Since I'm not there when he does this, I don't know how to correct it... he has at different times eaten 6 bananas, 8 apples, most of a jar of peanut butter (how he unscrewed the lid is beyond me!), he even opened a can of coffee - that was a HUGE mess! Right now I have everything I would normally have on the counter on top of the refrigerator. Any suggestions?


Greyhounds definitely have the advantage of being just about the same height as the counter!! Lucky for him, not so much for you.

Since your dog has already found many tasty treats when he has jumped on the counter, he has already been rewarded for this behavior, and dogs will always repeat behaviors that are rewarding for them.

Since this behavior is happening when you're not home, you have no control over it. He has learned that when you are not home, it is safe, fun and rewarding to eat from the wonderful, greyhound-sized buffet in the kitchen.

By keeping everything off of the counter, his counter-surfing should decrease because he is not being reinforced for it. However, unless you can be absolutely sure that he'll never get another thing from the counter when you're not around, you're better off preventing his access to the kitchen entirely when you're not home.

When you are home and in the kitchen with him, reinforce him for staying off the counter. Any behavior that you reinforce while he is in the kitchen with you -other than counter surfing- will grow as a result. Perhaps you can keep a dog pad in the kitchen, and when you are eating, or preparing food, so that you can reinforce him for laying on his bed. If he's laying on his dog bed, he can't be surfing the counters, right?

Keep in mind though that the kitchen manners that you are teaching him while you're there will only apply in the dog's mind when you are present to reinforce, or "police" them. He knows what works best when you are there, but what works best when you're not there will continue to happen if you allow it. Think of it like this: when you drive do you always go the speed limit? However, if you see a police car, you are likely to double check your speed and slow down if necessary to avoid being pulled over, right?

Prevention is your best line of defense! Preventing his access to the counters when you are not home, prevents it from happening in the first place, and may save you a few bucks on groceries!

Thanks for writing, and let us know if you have any questions.

Devene Godau, CPDT-KA

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