Protect the Turkey! – Putting an End to Counter Surfing this Thanksgiving in Massachusetts!

Good morning DGGT family!  We are back with another installment of behaviors to train for a happy and stress-free holiday season!  Today we are going to talk about counter surfing because the last thing anyone needs to see is their thanksgiving turkey go flying off the kitchen counter in the possession of their pup!

For the best results and long time learning to occur, we need to show them what we do want, rather than wait for them to make a mistake and then punish them.  So training your dog not to jump on the counter using positive reinforcement should look like this:

Have a leash attached to your dog while training.  It may sound obvious but you do not want your dog to have a chance to get the food.

Begin with a plate of low-value food on the ground.  The moment your dog looks away from the food, use your reward marker or clicker to mark the moment he turns away and reward him with a treat.  If he has trouble looking away initially, use a positive interrupter like a kissy noise.  This is teaching your dog that leaving food alone (aka impulse control) is actually the way to earn food.  Once your dog is readily offering this behavior with various kinds of food on the plate we can begin to move the food to the counter.  This is called raising the criteria. 

When we begin training on the counter, you need to puppy-proof them.  So put everything in cabinets or up and away so your dog cannot have access to anything when you are not in training mode.  The next step is low-value food on the plate on the counter and then high-value food on the counter.  You are going to continue to reward your dog’s choice not to go after the food.  This good behavior might look like sitting, laying down, or eye contact.         

Remember, even if you are seeing success with your training when you are not there to supervise your dog, manage their environment.  We cannot expect them to make the decision on their own to not touch your delicious Thanksgiving turkey.  I mean, I can barely trust my husband to be left alone with a fresh batch of cookies!  So what we need to do is make sure they cannot receive reinforcement from the countertop while we are not there.  This could look like being left in another room, a crate, putting up a baby gate, or wearing a leash and designating a primary dog handler to watch your pup during the thanksgiving festivities. 

Last but not least, we need to think about the need a dog is fulfilling when they are counter surfing.  Dogs naturally are foragers and seekers and the act of doing this (rather than the moment of eating the food) is actually what releases that feel-good hormone, dopamine.  So one of the best things you can do for your dog is find an appropriate way for them to practice these behaviors.  Try using food dispensing toys or hide their food around the room and let them do some nosework to sniff it out!  

We hope you learned something from us here today that will make your upcoming holidays just a little easier!  Happy training from Angela and all of us here at DGGT! To book your holiday pet sitting services this year, head on over to 



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