Dear Critter Corner: Our puppy has recently started to jump up on the counter tops and tables to steal items from them. What can we do to stop the behavior?
Almost every dog owner has encountered this challenge when their pup has learned they are tall enough to reach that prized area that usually harbors something fabulous! Unfortunately, if they get that prize they are being reinforced for the unwanted behavior.
One of your first lines of defense will be to manage the environment when you are not there to watch them. Think about using baby gates or x-pens to close off the kitchen or dining area while you are away. You will also want to make sure that you are putting things away so that if your pup does jump up, they will not be reinforced.
Teach your pup an ‘off’ cue and when you see them about to jump up, cue ‘off’ and when they keep 4 feet on the floor, reinforce by telling them how good they are. If they do happen to get something off the counter and you see it happen, having a solid ‘leave it’ or ‘drop it’ cue will help in this case. Some of our pups enjoy the game of chase that may take place after they get something off the table, if this is your pup, try not to reinforce by chasing. Instead, you can try asking for a sit or look at making one of their toys really fun by playing with it.
Lastly you can use live video to watch your pup from another room and catch them in the act, preferably before they jump up and correct the behavior from another room, making them think that there are eyes everywhere!
If you are still having problems working with the behavior or would like some extra help, you can schedule a 1:1 Consultation with one of our behaviorists or call our Behavior Helpline at ext. 183.