Counter Surfing: Or, Where’s the Beef?

Counter surfing, while not off the chart and in the “Dogs gone wild” category, can still be problematic.  Especially, if you’ve been anticipating sinking your teeth into that 8 ounce, “soon to be medium rare” filet mignon that’s been thawing on the kitchen counter.  

Picture this: You’ve got the coals white hot and down to a perfect simmer for grillin’ as you head back to the kitchen to replenish your Cabernet Sauvignon and grab the steak . . . . . . wait. . . . where’s the steak?  The dog – and the steak are nowhere to be found. Elvis has left the building!  Sound familiar? 

Counter surfing

I get many calls and emails on this very “touchy topic.” Here’s a recent question from someone who hit my “Ask Jim” button on my business FaceBook page: 

“I have a 4 year old Pointer/Border Collie mix who is a handful and a half. She gets into everything, is very hyper and anxious (she is on anti-anxiety pills.) Most issues we just deal with but her counter surfing and stealing is beyond acceptable. What do you recommend?” 

While it would have been good to have had a little more information in order to better evaluate this specific situation, the short answer is for me to ask ONE simple question: “What would you prefer your dog to do instead of counter surf?”  

Practical solutions lie within the answer anyone that has a counter surfing issue with their dog would give to that question.  The list of solutions isn’t long but any one will do the job. Here’s what many have said:  

“I don’t want the dog in the kitchen at all.” 

“Being in the kitchen is okay, I just don’t want my dog to jump on the counter.”

“I prefer my dog to lie on his dog bed while I cook in the kitchen. That would suit me just fine!” 

All three solutions are reasonable, practical and can be used by dog owners every day.   The problem is with the owner – not the dog. 

The dog is an opportunist and does what works. The steak was available and within reach, even though a little rare– it was gone! 

Owners believe their dogs think like a human and should at least say, “Mother may I…..” before assuming the steak is theirs.   However, dogs think “touch and take.”  This is not rocket science stuff.   

Most owners don’t take the time to teach their dogs a preferred behavior– pick one from the list above.  Nor do they think about rewarding the preferred behavior when they see the dog perform the good behavior in the kitchen or anywhere else.

Instead, owners are often quick to punish the dog behavior they don’t want. Seems to me owners have it all backwards. 

The good news is with a little dog obedience training any dog behavior problem can be resolved. Oh yes, did I say have plenty of patience and do repetitive training every day? That will help a lot! It is really very simple. Happy training! 

By the way, if you have a question, just hit the “Ask Jim” button on my business FaceBook page. More details make it easier for me to answer.  

Together we can raise a happy, obedient dog!


Please comment below and tell us what you do to keep your dog from counter surfing – or do you?


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Jim Burwell is a “thanks for making the impossible, possible” professional dog trainer having trained 20,000+ dogs and counting and serving more than 7,000 clients.  Jim’s easy to follow, common sense, and positive methods have made him the “dog trainer of choice” for 30 years.  One of his clients says it best: There are people who are so good at, and passionate about, what they do, that in their presence, one can’t help thinking that they have found their true calling and are doing exactly what they should be doing on this earth. Jim is one of these rare people. His quiet and understated manner, his effective technique for training dogs (and their families) is something which I feel fortunate to have witnessed and in which to have been an active participant.  Jane Wagner


(c)Jim Burwell Inc.