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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ask the Dog Trainer, with Mike Shamp: Stopping Your Counter Surfer

by Mike Shamp, Master Dog Behavior Therapist and Trainer

© courtesy R.B., reader copyright on file
Meet Orly
Dear Mike:

1.  How can I break my 3 1/2 year old Dalmatian from counter surfing?
2.  My Dalmatian gets so excited when we have company.  She trains well with greeting until real people arrive, then she reverts to her old crazy self.
3.  How can I keep my dog from chasing the cat?

Thanks, Frankie
G’day Frankie,

Counter surfing can be a worrisome behavior with a larger dog such as a Dalmatian and presents a unique training situation. The easiest and most direct course of action is of course eliminating the opportunity by making sure that food items are not within Molly Pepper’s reach. This works well when you’re not cooking or away from home.  However, looking at this from a practical standpoint this can be difficult when distractions take you away from the kitchen during your cooking sessions or your children or husband forget and leave food on the counter.

The next step is to look at motive. To most dogs food item that is good enough for us is great for them. Bitter Apple spray provides an effective method for removing motive. Start by giving your dog a good sample of Bitter Apple on her tongue. Depending on the size of the dog it may be as little as a dripping finger rubbed on the dog’s tongue or a quarter teaspoon poured on the tongue. Next, saturate a piece of food such as a slice of bread with the spray and make it available for stealing. Most dogs are quickly discouraged when the booty is no longer tasty. It also helps to be nearby to anticipate the theft and give a sharp hand clap, say NO in a deep growl voice tone or squirt her with a water bottle to distract the dog from its task and quickly in a light and happy voice call the dog to you. Repeat until Molly Pepper is no longer tempted to heist food from the counter.

The same technique can be applied to cat chasing minus the Bitter Apple. Kitty may not appreciate cologne that smells like sour apple. Begin by making sure that your dog comes every time you call her. Start with a peaceful, low stress environment. Crouch low be playful and call her in happy voice tones to encourage her to come to you. Begin praising as soon as she looks at you. Give a command such as sit when she arrives to keep the focus on you and praise again. Once your dog is responding, introduce a toy that she enjoys or use treats. Playfully throw the toy and allow her to fetch and come back to you. Command her to sit at your side and give a stay command. She should remain at your side until released to fetch the toy. Move up to tossing the toy and allowing her to run after the toy but call her back to you before she reaches the toy. When she does this reliably you should have more control and the ability to get her attention when the cat gives her the “let’s play” signal.

Building on the skills above it is time to talk about door manners. A well behaved dog should be expected to sit in view of the door when a guest arrives. I prefer to provide a distance of 6 to 10 feet between the dog and the door to allow a party of 4 or 5 people to come into your house. Keep her in a sit/stay position until the door is closed and release her by calling her to you. It is very important that you are looking at the dog to be ready to correct her if she moves. Dogs are very much like children in a class room, If the teacher turns her back the kids pass notes and shoot spit wads. The focus is now on you and not on your guests and Molly Pepper will have more self control when guests arrive. For the best and fastest results have your guests call before they ring the doorbell so that you can be ready and only your dog is surprised.

Good luck with your training.

© courtesy M.S.

Our ASK THE DOG TRAINER staff can be reached at LetsAdoptaDogPark@gmail.comFor more information on Mike Shamp and his training, you may find him at Bark Busters of Central Florida. You can also visit Bark Busters' Training Tips Page for help. A personal appointment with a trainer will likely provide more specific information on your dog's issues and your questions.

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Pet Meds said...

Hey Frankie, Nice Article

Anonymous said...

Remarkable post.I am glad to read it

Christopher Goff said...

Thanks for sharing the great ideas with us and that's a very good technique when guests arrive. For the best results have your guests call before they ring the doorbell so that you can get ready and your dog will surprise.

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