Dogs who counter surf need another job
Julia Levitt | Contributor
We had the most wonderful dog in the world. Her name was Beisha, a Portuguese Water Dog.
One evening my husband and I came home from dinner, and found an empty plastic bag on the floor. It had a large hole in it. We looked at each other and couldn’t remember what was in the bag. Oh yes — five dinner rolls from Zingerman's Bakehouse.
Apparently you really can taste the difference! Beisha was lying on her side like a beached whale.
While Beisha had many lovely qualities, I would rate stealing food from our counters not one of them. Like so many dogs, Beisha was just the right height to snatch any food from the counter if it was close enough to the edge.
I agree that, with some dogs, the food doesn’t have to be close to the edge of the counter for the dog to have a snack. One of my friends whose dog ate a vast amount of turkey leftover from Thanksgiving asked "Don’t they learn?"
My other friend who is a vet, overheard the question, and both of us replied at the same time: "No!"
Now this issue is one I would not laugh off. Counter surfing takes many dangerous and expensive forms. I just got a number of tearful calls from one of my clients whose adolescent Labrador Retriever ingested a dish towel! You might shrug your shoulders and say, "Oh it is soft. It will pass."
In this case, the towel did not pass: not long after, and several thousand dollars later, it had become life-threatening problem. The towel blocked the intestine, and the dog was vomiting as her food was blocked.
What the owners thought was a cute, funny joke turned in to a dire situation that required surgery.
Now before you ask, "Why can’t this be fixed Miss Harmony?" Miss Harmony will respond with a quiz
Here’s how you fix the problem: Please pick a number 1-4.
1) When you see the pooch on the counter you run to the counter yelling, “Get off, get off!"
2) You approach the dog and pinch his/her feet
3) Have a squirt bottle handy and zap the dog when he/she is on the counter
4) None of the above
All of you know me by now, and the person who picked number four wins! As a professional dog trainer, I see this as a symptom of a problem. Okay, so let’s fix it!
Let’s backtrack even Great Danes started their lives not being able to reach a counter top what happened?
Let’s go through our check list:
Has your dog been properly stimulated since it was a pup? Do you walk it regularly? Does it attend classes for herding, agility, obedience? (Do you take your dog for a bike ride or swimming in the summer?)
How about exhibiting symptoms of boredom? Chewing furniture? Eliminating in the house?
Does the dog disrespect you? Bark constantly, jump on you, or strangers and guests? Mouthing you and others? Has the dog bitten you?
When people tell me they don’t walk their dogs, I often think of the analogy, "How would you like to be locked in your house every day?" The house is a big kennel to a dog. They need exercise and stimulation. Don’t you?
Well you say, "Tell us the end of the story with Beisha. What did you do about her counter surfing?"
Beisha got two walks a day — yes, summer and winter. This was not enough, though, so Beisha went back to school to learn how to be a Therapy Dog. Beisha gave great joy to people who could not be mobile, those who were lonely and infirm.
One man laughed and laughed every time Beisha went to visit him. She made herself at home by jumping right next to him on his bed!
When you see your dog counter surfing, put away the squirt bottle. Stop and ask yourself these questions:
Am I providing an interesting life for my dog? Do I challenge my dog? Do I ask him/her to do some of the work he/she was bred to do? Do I provide an outlet for my dog’s energy?
Last week I walked my pack past a lady out in her garden. She expressed surprise to learn I walk my toy breeds three miles a day. She went on to say that she didn’t know that toy dogs could do this. My reply was simple: a dog is a dog, no matter what the size.
So when your dog surfs the counter, don’t blame your dog. Remember that counter surfing is only a symptom