Maybe you have one of your own. A counter-surfing devil of a dog who can seemingly levitate to reach things you thought were well beyond temptation. They can devour entire loaves of bread, including the wrapper, in seconds. That tempting lemon pound cake or tomorrow's breakfast croissant - gone, just like (snap fingers) that!
Believe it or not, there is a quick fix for this problem. You may need to repeat it a time or two to get the message across, but it's never failed me (well, only the once, and Tug really is a very determined counter surfer, and quite agile. He simply hops up onto counters or the kitchen table and ambles daintily along, all 100 lbs. of him).
The method is simple.
- Find yourself a nice big unbreakable bowl (stainless is great) or plastic bucket.
- Fill to the brim with empty pop cans.
- Tie a string to the bowl or the handle of the pail.
- Tie something your dog finds absolutely irresistible to the string. Hot dog, cheese, cookie...doesn't matter as long as your dog loves it.
- Place the bait close enough to the edge of the counter that your dog won't be able to pass it up.
- Leave the room, looking as innocent as possible. Retire to your lair to lie in wait for the big crash.
- Go to your dog, acting very kind and concerned. He did this to himself, remember? You want him to think you had NOTHING to do with it. Ask "What happened, Buddy?" Then "notice" the mess, point to it and say,in your best guilt laden voice, "Did you do that? You're very bad!" Don't yell, be quiet but firm.
- Repeat experiment, maybe the next day, using a different tasty tidbit. Your goal is to make Buddy think that no matter what is up there, no matter how tasty and seemingly unattended, it is attached to a big, scary can monster.
That's why, until Buddy is at the point where that tasty chunk of cheese can sit there all day, untouched, it's doubly important to make sure that you just do not leave anything out for him to snag without suffering the repercussions. That teaches Buddy what's called a "variable schedule of reinforcement". It STRENGTHENS a behavior. If your dog gets occasionally rewarded for grabbing something off the counter (he gets to eat it), he figures out that if he keeps trying, eventually he'll get that reward. Great. Now it's a game. It'll take you forever to get rid of it.