I spy with my little eye, a cat’s paws on the countertop. I spy with my little eye, a dog’s tongue slapping the countertop. Their mission is not top secret, they’re looking for food. Counter surfing is foraging behavior. They look for food up high, they look for food down low. Yikes, they will eat that pie if you move too slow.
So what’s a person to do? If your kitchen has a door that can be closed or an opening that can be blocked with a baby gate, restricting access can be your first line of defense. But a lot of homes have open floor plans combining the kitchen, dining, and living rooms into one great room. This makes it nearly impossible to gate off the kitchen, even with an x-pen.
First, don’t leave food unattended on the counter. Let the animals outside, crate them, leash them up, or put them in another room if you have to leave the kitchen during meal prep. If they’re never successful, they’ll be less likely to look for food on counters.
Second, teach your animals an incompatible behavior. They can’t counter surf and lie on a mat at the same time. Teach your animals a “place” cue. This means teaching your animals to go to a mat when you ask. If desired, anytime you interact with food can also become a “place” cue. For example, your animals will go to their mats whenever they see you preparing food in the kitchen, whenever you sit down at the table, and whenever you eat snacks in front of the TV.
When I was a child, I’d line up my stuffed animals for my pretend cooking show audience. Now when I’m in the kitchen and turn around, my cat and my dog are watching me from their mats. I toss food to my furry fan club, making sure they do not have to move off of their mats to eat the food. Using our intelligence, we can take countermeasures against counter surfing.
For more information on the training techniques mentioned above, please contact us. www.BehaviorUnited.com